Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody

Things that bugged me, but I don't ultimately believe to be the crux of this movie's failings:

-How extremely fast and loose this played with history. Songs come a decade before or after their true genesis, the entire third act conflict is completely manufactured. If you took an exit poll of people who watched that movie but don't know Queen's history, I think there's a 100% chance they would conclude Live Aid was their last event of note, rather than guess they had three subsequent albums (their final one being one of their most beloved). I'll be the first to tell you that I don't really care at all if something based on history is entirely accurate, though, that doesn't change just because I've finally watched a movie where I could notice it throughout.

-How all conflict in this movie comes about from Freddie exploring his sexuality. I don't think literally anyone in production thinks of this as such an A to B relationship, is mostly why it doesn't bother me more, but the unquestionable shape of this is Freddie finding ruin in homoerotic bacchanalia and nearly destroying his closest relationships in the process, only to come back to those heteros with their lives together and prostrate himself for One Last Show. It's also at least slightly more complicated than that via Jim Hutton but it's clearly not by mistake that a lot of people find this very regressive, which should be such an easy pitfall to avoid when making a movie about debatably the most famous queer icon of the 20th century. Really bizarre.

-How there's no deep cuts. There were never going to be, after all, but it's still jarring that literally no song played in this film is not featured on one of Queen's first two Greatest Hits other than Doin' All Right. You'd hope a probing look into their frontman would probe a little deeper musically as well. The hits are wonderful, at least (bits of some of them even feel a little richer given this context esp. the title song), but Queen has one of the most underrated set of album cuts I know. History has relegated them as hits-only, but the beautiful and righteous music they made extends far beyond them.

But, in a way, all these things are a part of the greater issue. Byproducts of it, at least. Bohemian Rhapsody doesn't probe Mercury's history for meaning, it arranges it into an inelegant, yet cleaner, arc. The fringes and loose ends are sanded off to funnel the movie to Live Aid as efficiently as possible. It utilizes only the Greatest Hits because this movie is a Greatest Hits, and in the same way a hits compilation could struggle to ever match a coherent album, missing the more natural ebbs and flows of songs that might work, might play especially well to one rando out in bumfuck nowhere, so does this feel abridged, slapped together. This only has time for the hooks. Anyone could tell you this movie is structured moronically, but this is why it's structured the way it is, to boil a rich and complicated and contradictory history into a two-hour weepy.

Like I said, this all interacts with the movie in ways that don't matter crucially much. I'm in Love with My Car is made fun of heavily, but a big part of Queen's charm is their dorky sincerity, on all parts. May writing songs about time-dilated space travel, Mercury a playful ditty about his cat, the band an entire soundtrack for a space serial pastiche revival. Bohemian Rhapsody is undoubtedly experimental, but anyone who knows the band at all will happily tell you Queen themselves forebore it multiple times over; multi-section operatic experiments were well-explored by the band by the time they'd recorded Bo Rhap. They were a progressive rock band for a while, after all, not that you'd know from the movie; my fiancee was surprised to learn a Night at the Opera was their fourth album when I told her afterward.

If there's a major shame in all this, it's that this is the Queen that really spoke to their biggest fans, the one Malik's Mercury claims to stand for while grandstanding to the fellow at EMI, and that band is not in this movie at all. Whatever is here, Queen is clearly not. They don't need to be, the movie can use them and Freddie as a pretext to explore something else, but that much is certain.

What it does leave, then, is nothing. An empty, passionless montage skimming through a man's life, inventing passages, all to make something that goes down easy and uncritically. Propped up by good music, some amazing closeups (seriously, basically every shot in the first 5 minutes is gorgeous), and a committed cast, sure, but a propped-up shell still it be.

Also: Bryan Singer fuck off forever

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