“Luckily for Bohemian Rhapsody it had the music of Queen to carry it to the tremendous Live Aid performance…”
I don’t know shit about Queen. Other than a ‘Greatest Hits’ album and the knowledge that she lives in London any and all history is beyond me. This made for an interesting watch of the new biopic of the UK rock group entitled simply ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ after arguably their most popular song, because even I could see through all of the bullshit.
I want to start off by saying that Bohemian Rhapsody is not a bad movie, and as a matter of fact I enjoyed a lot of it. That being said it did have some serious issues in my opinion. The main one being the story feeling lopsided. Now It was heavily theorized before the film’s released that it’s focus on the other members of Queen instead of just Freddie Mercury would create this effect, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Bohemian Rhapsody is plagued with these bizarre inconsistencies in the tone of the story presented, leaving the film feeling terribly stilted.
Bohemian Rhapsody starts off as almost a puff-piece. It was legitimately infuriating how there were absolutely no obstacles for the band. Not that I wanted them to fail (I’m not an idiot), but it made the movie feel terribly manufactured. I’m sure there was at least one thing that went wrong with these guys as they were starting out. The worst we saw was a flat tire, and even that was resolved with the greatest of ease.
Any and all problems encountered, and I could literally count them off on one hand, were treated as no problem at all. So much so that I would have to really look to find more than 2 issues the band encountered. And like I said this caused the film to feel disingenuous. Like it was constantly building Queen up and placing them on pedestals so high that you would need binoculars to see them. Frankly it was infuriating.
The movie then takes a step in a more mature direction when we finally see Freddie Mercury, the sole focus of the film at this point, begin to grapple with not only his sexuality but also the true price of fame. It was in this moment that I completely understood all of the praise that Rami Malek was receiving for his performance. He not only nailed the flamboyant, grandiose nature of Mercury, but also the subtle emotional moments that really sold him as a tortured soul. Without these moments this film would have been nothing.
But unfortunately this experience, where I believe the film should have lived, was fleeting. Soon we were back to our old antics of the band never really having any opposition in any form. And these moments are fun, with a lot of dramatic irony being used as punchlines, but they lack the substance that we had tasted earlier. I just wished for more of that.
Like many children growing up I was always warned to be careful what I wished for; and this lesson kept repeating in my brain as we transitioned into the final act of Bohemian Rhapsody. Much like a driver who has fallen asleep at the wheel, Bohemian Rhapsody wakes up and realizes its mistakes and jerks the wheel way too far to the right ultimately ending up in a ditch. I understand that I criticized the film for having no conflict, but in its final stretch there is nothing but conflict. This proves exhausting for a different reason.
There are two hidden blessings in this stretch of the film. The first being that we once again get to see Rami Malek’s wonderful portrayal of Freddie Mercury, and the second being the Live Aid performance. The film had been building up the Live Aid performance literally since it started, showing us glimpses of it before jumping back in time to chronicle the rise of Queen, and luckily the wait was worth it.
This performance is almost worth the price of admission in and of itself. Every aspect of this sequence in the film is spectacular. There are a few hiccups, the main one being the weird CGI crowd, but the bad is most definitely outweighed by the good. First of all the sound design was incredible. It truly felt like I was there in the stadium with not only the thousands of fans but also Queen themselves. This was impressive to me because I found the vocal dubbing throughout the rest of the film to feel rather out of place, especially when perfectly-mastered and mixed vocals were coming from a scene that was supposed to feel “raw”, but the way it was mixed during the Live Aid performance made all of those issues fade away.
It was pure energy. I’m not sure if they recreated the entire Live Aid performance or if it was just a segment of it, but either way it was well worth the wait. Even though the crowd was a weird digital representation and it looked as though the band was performing in heaven with all of the light-blooms and faded visuals, this sequence will remain as Bohemian Rhapsody in my mind. Years down the line when I think back to this movie I won’t give a shit about the story being lopsided. I won’t care about Mike Myers’ terribly hamfisted reference to Wayne’s World. I will only remember Live Aid; and this is what will compel me to rewatch Bohemian Rhapsody.
Overall Bohemian Rhapsody was most definitely not the best it could have been, and honestly if I was more invested in Queen I might be a little upset. It felt as though the story could never find a middle-ground, either being too perfect or too harsh on the characters. Luckily for Bohemian Rhapsody it had the music of Queen to carry it to the tremendous Live Aid performance, because otherwise I probably would have left and read the Wikipedia page for the band instead.
I give Bohemian Rhapsody a B