Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody ★½

Ugh. Several users have already delivered thorough and incisive takedowns of Bohemian Rhapsody, so I'll approach this differently by comparing it to another film. Another film about an enigmatic, once-in-a-generation talent. Another film that tries to play the hits and show the inspiration behind them. Another film that tries to "get" their mysterious, almost magical protagonist; that tries to dig into what made him tick.

Love & Mercy! Now obviously, films can't be compared as apples to apples. Bohemian Rhapsody was meant to be a bigger, mainstream hit whereas Love & Mercy was an indie film. But similar to Freddie Mercury, Brian Wilson was an unconventional, singularly gifted composer who forged a wildly incongruous path for his band. After L&M, I felt like I got Brian Wilson. I felt like I know where he deviated from the norm, I seemed to understand (at least a little bit) his process and how it lead to such great, momentous music. The composition scenes were fascinating and the film did wonderfully in highlighting what made Wilson a genius while displaying the flip side that was his mental frailty. But best of all, the film makes a real effort to buck conventions. Some would say the autobiographical content might've been better served in a more traditional format, but the whole thing is just so unique; so singularly focused and built around the masterful rock album Pet Sounds (still the GOAT, I might add).

Fast-forward three years and you have Bohemian Rhapsody; which observes Freddie Mercury, one of the most singularly talented, awe-inspiring performers of the era, being cut down, trimmed up, glossed-over and crudely forced into an offensively formulaic narrative. The complete lack of organically developed emotion, drama and stakes are masked by Queen's greatest hits; and every fucking beat of Mercury's life is converted into a cliche and regurgitated onto the screen in the most bland way possible. Couldn't help but laugh when Mercury said onscreen that Queen wanted to buck formula and be something different in THIS movie. Josh Lewis notes this hilariously in his write-up on this film, but I couldn't believe how much the movie was unwilling to show Mercury's darker moments as....well, dark. He literally sings "AYYY-oh on his way out of his AIDS diagnosis. It's initially hinted at by a cough. He "discovers" his homosexuality while watching a trucker walk into a rest-stop bathroom.

It all just feels so untrue to Mercury and Queen's legacy. The music is *great*, the concert sequences are decent (although a very mediocre recreation of much more electric real-life events), and the vaguely introduced idea that Mercury refused to be a "victim" to AIDS is intriguing (though the film ignores the productive time Mercury had between the Live-Aid concert and his death). But this is just so uninteresting, so offensively bland to a band and a frontman that was anything but. It'd be a tough task for any film to capture that magic, but Bohemian Rhapsody never even bothers to try.

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