I have recently become a fan of Queen. I’ve always enjoyed their music, but for the brief year that I drove long-haul trucks for a living, I listened to a lot of music, and I often wound up listening to the many, many hits that Freddie Mercury and Queen are known for. I always knew that this Bohemian Rhapsody biopic was one that I was going to want to watch, regardless of the fact that I don’t exactly love biographical tales. Knowing that it was recently nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards just extended that anticipation.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury. Freddie defied stereotypes and shattered convention to become one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn Freddie, surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates just in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. Queen cements a legacy that continues to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day. – Twentieth Century Fox
I’ve heard a lot about this film before and after seeing it. Some good and some bad, but regardless, the primary thing I’m interested in is how it does cinematically, not historically. From nearly every aspect of the film, it excels. From the impressive performance of Rami Malek to the very way the film is shot and put together is all pretty memorable. While it’s interesting that the vocal performances are a mixture of Malek, Mercury, and a Canadian singer on YouTube, it is also a bit disappointing that it’s not as authentic as it could be. Then again, nobody could ever recreate Mercury’s iconic voice, so of course they would need to try their hand at sound mixing to perfect that art.
The main complaint I have comes down to the same complaint I have about a lot of true stories and biopics, that there isn’t much of a real, solid, tangible plot. There is no real individual character goals, motivations, or individual character importance that makes it memorable. Instead, you remember this film because he is playing Freddy Mercury. You remember this movie because it’s Queen. The characters simply have individual importance because they play different instruments. None of them are ever really, desperately trying to make it to Point B, because there is no Point B. It is, in essence, blind direction as it just follows them around.
Mercury’s story does have growth, though. It mostly centers on central conflict of his idea of independence vs. the importance of family and what that means to him, a lesson he eventually has to learn throughout the movie. This is a big part of where the film takes liberties, as some events are simply incorrect…but as I stated before, I care more about cinematic relevance than historical accuracy. It is almost clearly evident that this liberty was taken specifically for character depth – if nothing else, you want a dynamic protagonist. Had he stayed static, his character would’ve felt flat, regardless of if that was true or not. That’s just how film works most of the time, so I couldn’t care less about the liberties taken here, it helped more than it hurt.
The question of the hour comes down to how much Bohemian Rhapsody truly deserves that Oscar nomination. As I mentioned briefly, the technical aspects of the movie are all honestly quite remarkable. My BTS category all has full points, for instance. Visuals did a great job with makeup and costumes, cinematography had a lot of great focus on camera angles presenting a story and enhancing emotions, the editing was also really well done when going from story to singing all while music was playing, it was as-advertised, and while the music was obviously memorable, the actual sound-editing was simply put: impressive once you learn what they actually did. The BTS category, however, was the only category to receive full points (other than the specialty category).
Everything else was fine, but not nearly perfect. People got 85%, Writing got 80%, the Narrative Arc only got 60% because of the lack of an actual narrative structure, and Entertainment only got 40% because I don’t care to buy it, own it, or really have any desire to recommend it to others.
Does it deserve an Oscar? Oh, yes…but also, no. I wouldn’t necessarily say it deserves Best Picture, but nearly every other category should be in the running. Best Acting, cinematography, editing, makeup, costumes, sound mixing, etc.