Bohemian Rhapsody review

Max Munoz, Staff Writer

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The modern biopic not only depends on the real-life events that inspire it, but it thrives on them. Audiences clearly eat these things up, otherwise Hollywood executives wouldn’t spend sinful amounts of money and release them into theaters each year.

So, how hard could it be to make another semi-decent biopic for the masses? The formula is already set up. Grab a satisfactory director, a few celebrity doppelgangers, and a cookie-cutter, rise-fall-return plot and there’s the movie. Heck, the majority of the writing has already been done.

With all of that in mind, how could this possibly be insulting or offensive to anyone? Well, “Bohemian Rhapsody” somehow managed to be a cheap failure of a biopic that both disregards and betrays the source material that it is based on.

I’ll talk about the pros first, I guess, which should be pretty easy since there are few.

The film is adequately put together, which isn’t surprising, as it’s directed by Bryan Singer, a director with a generally positive reputation (“The Usual Suspects”, “X-Men”) and corporate backing by the bucketload.

While I don’t like to admit it, Rami Malek does certainly shine as Freddy Mercury, a daunting task considering how exuberant and larger-than-life Mercury really was. Malek does a great job of humanizing an icon, and it is easy to identify with his character despite his mega-star status.

The music is obviously great (it’s about Queen, ever heard of them?), and the cinematography is surprisingly above average. Throughout my time in the theater, I was thrilled by the engaging and colorful shots laced through each frame.

Okay, so on a technical and acting level, the film is… fine I guess. Add it to the pile of perfectly polished Hollywood blockbusters.

However, it’s when you start to examine the plot and story where this movie starts to rip at the seams.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is an absolute wreck when it comes to pacing and tone. I had expected the film to adopt a dreary tone like so many biopics before it (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Walk The Line”), and it does… in the scenes it wants to. Bryan Singer juggles between a funny, almost self-aware movie and a gritty, depressing one, and swapping one out for the other leaves the viewer feeling very disoriented and confused.

As for the pacing, it’s super redundant, going from montage to emotional scene and back to montage on a whim. The number of montages feels self-parodical at its worst and tiresome at its best. While watching, I constantly found myself asking the questions, “Who are you?”, “Why do I care about this?”, and saying “Oh, I guess this is happening now”.

But what’s even more jarring than the frustrating plot issues is the gross mishandling and muddying of facts available to literally everyone who wants or needs them. Accuracy is usually priority number one when it comes to biopics, but the sheer number of real-life events this movie got wrong or lied about is just mind-boggling. Here’s a neat little list of a few of them.

 

  • Freddie never went behind the band’s back to record a solo album. They all mutually agreed to take a break.
  • Freddie never knew he had AIDS before Queen’s famous Live Aid performance. He wouldn’t even find out until years later.
  • EMI executive Ray Foster (or the cliche “hate this guy” character) never even existed. Actually, I’m fairly sure that the character was only created for a one-off joke about “Wayne’s World.”
  • Freddie never came out to his parents, or anyone. No one knew he was gay until after his death.

 

Reminder: these aren’t artistic choices or liberties taken to advance the story. The literal tagline is “The music you know, the stories you don’t,” implying that this movie is a portrayal of events that really took place.

And what’s more insulting is that Singer and his sorry excuse for a writing team deliberately lie to their audience in order to give the film some tear-jerker cornerstones. The scene where Mercury tells the rest of the band that he’s terminal? Meaningless. The scene where he comes out to his parents? A lie. In fact, the entire conclusion wouldn’t function properly without the lies told.

While watching, I was genuinely impressed by these scenes, but now, they’re cheapened by the unshakable sense of inauthenticity surrounding them.

In summary, avoid this atrocity at all costs. It’s a boring, confusing, and infuriating outing that embodies none of the rebellious Queen spirit. It fails to meet an already low standard set by it’s biopic predecessors and is the perfect example of how well-made, funded Hollywood movies are, more often than not, uninspired and emotionless.

 

Personal Rating: 3/10

IMDB Score: 8.4/10