Geek Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

So, it looks like Bohemian Rhapsody was the big movie for this part weekend for the folks here at Gabbing Geek.  Bigtime Queen fan Watson really liked it.  Jenny’s husband Jonathan, an all-around music guy, was a bit bothered by the way the movie messed with the timeline of events.  Me?  I don’t know much about Queen, and while I like their music just fine, I don’t know if I’d call myself a fan, and I certainly don’t know much beyond the basics about any of these guys.  As long as they play “Fat-Bottomed Girls,” I’m probably fine.

Yes, they played that one.

The movie chronicles the meteoric rise of Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) and Queen going from 1970, when Mercury worked as a baggage handler at the local airport, to their 1985 performance at Live Aid.  Queen, as a band, decides they want to make music their own way, defying genre and various expectations, becoming a popular group whose concerts were as much interactive shows with a lot of audience sing-along as they were just four guys playing some rockin’ tunes.  And these tunes do indeed rock.  Bohemian Rhapsody is at its best when it shows Queen either performing for a live audience or creating their best known songs.  The Live Aid concert at the end of the movie may be about as close as a person can get to seeing the real band play today.

On the other hand, the rest of the movie is rather by the numbers.  If you’re at all interested in the lives of the other three guys in Queen, well, you won’t find out much.  This is Freddie’s story, and as an NPR critic I overheard discussing this movie said, something about the real Freddie Mercury resists being put too much out there.  He was, in his own way, a very private person, so much of the movie shows Mercury’s life in a manner very familiar to anyone whose ever seen a couple musical biopics.  I don’t think I really learned much of anything about the real Freddie Mercury here beyond the cliches.  There are ways to do a biopic right, even a musical one.  Walk the Line is a great example of one.  Bohemian Rhapsody, credited to director Bryan Singer, never quite seems to know what to say about Freddie the man as opposed to Freddie the rock star, or at least not in a way that makes Freddie seem all that distinct from who knows how many other musicians.

Really, come to this one for the music.  The rest is forgettable.  8 out of 10 observant cats.

Oh, and since The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was pretty disappointing, I’ll just add that not only did Bohemian Rhapsody use its famous music better, Suspiria did ballet onscreen better.  How can you screw up a timeless story often depicted in ballet when a by-the-numbers musical biography and an arthouse horror movie do a better job with its source material than Disney did with that mess?

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