Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody ½

There’s this great bit in The Devil’s Candy, Julie Salamon’s book about the making of The Bonfire of the Vanities, where Brian De Palma reads a stage direction in Michael Cristofer’s screenplay that calls for a plane touching down at JFK, and he refuses to shoot it, saying “the day I include the cliche of a plane landing in one of my movies is the day I retire.” Bohemian Rhapsody is entirely plane landing shots, which is to say that every single creative decision it contains is the easiest, laziest, most boringly familiar thing imaginable, including the actual shot of a plane landing on a runway that’s meant to herald Queen’s arrival in the Midwest for their first American tour. I can scarcely think of a film more flagrantly indifferent to the idea of originality or craft, or more hostile in its overwhelming carelessness to an audience expected to pay both attention and the price of admission. This is a movie in which the supposedly spontaneous improvisation of the title song in the studio uses the finished album recording of that song to demonstrate the work in progress as they’re recording it, and in which Freddie Mercury, leaving the hospital after being diagnosed HIV positive, encounters an emaciated terminal patient who salutes him with Queen lyrics (!) as Mercury walks off into a halo of angelic light. Ghoulish. At one point a cartoonishly skeptical record executive furrows his brow listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and declares that radio stations will never play it, it will never be popular, and — as the camera cuts into a head-on closeup — teenagers will never bang their heads rocking out to it in their cars. The executive is played by Mike Myers. I wanted to rip my fucking hair out.

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