There is little doubt that Bohemian Rhapsody was one of the surprise box office hits of 2018. Maybe the biggest. The more unexpected feat from the Freddie Mercury biopic is its substantial award season buzz. Not only has it won Best Drama at the Golden Globes, but it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards – which is hard to believe, because Bohemian Rhapsody is a bad movie.
And that is a shame. I like Queen. They are a universally-loved band that created amazing music. The film’s underwhelming story writing, direction, and production were not so lovable. In fact, they left a bad taste about the band’s dynamics. Considering that Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor were involved with the flick, it is a clumsy depiction of their life’s work.
The Concert Scenes In Bohemian Rhapsody Are Overrated
The plus side of the movie is a great soundtrack. Queen has an undeniable collection of two dozen arena rock classics that few bands can rival.
Aside from their insertion into the film, Bohemian Rhapsody has little else to offer. It is not even the best presentation of live music in a 2018 movie; that honor belongs to A Star Is Born. The bold way in which Bradley Cooper filmed concert scenes resulted in a stunning viewing experience. Audiences were onstage with the characters rather than a relatively standard point-of-view.
In contrast, the live scenes in Bohemian Rhapsody were standard green screen/soundstage reproductions. It looked and felt like generic CGI. The Live Aid sequence was less rewarding than its hype. Instead of revealing what it was like to be Freddie Mercury at Live Aid, it recreated what it felt like to watch Live Aid on TV.
The choices made by Bradley Cooper resulted in a better product that I had not seen before. Bryan Singer recreated something that I could have watched on YouTube, which is not a bona fide cinematic accomplishment that should be expected of a Best Picture nominee.
Bryan Singer Directed A Lazy Film
When I evaluate a director’s impact on a film, my main consideration is how they told the story. It is why I have come to appreciate Steven Spielberg and Ryan Coogler. They have an innate sense on how to develop an economical story.
Very little about Bohemian Rhapsody’s story was interesting or astute. Instead of picking an angle or story to approach, the filmmakers chose a broad approach. This resulted in sloppy writing as they tried to touch on everything.
The mess resulted in at least sixmontages, most of them in the first hour. When the same condensing technique is employed that often, the story is tired and not very interesting.
The Terrible Mike Myers Scenes In
Bohemian Rhapsody also has the honor of the worst movie sequence of the year. The scenes where Mike Myers plays the record company exec who scoffs at A Night At The Opera are terrible. Not only because the eventual Wayne’s World reference is obvious from the onset, but the hair and makeup are horrible.
The high school-level makeup job is something I have not witnessed from anything in Mike Myers’ career, much less a big budget movie. Even outrageous Austin Powers costumes and sketch-friendly SNL makeup are superior to that one scene.
If the film couldn’t afford a decent wig for Mike Myers, then what did they spend their $50 million-plus budget on outside of Bryan Singer’s legal fees?
Freddie Mercury’s “Problems” Were Problematic
The story exorcised a lot of Queen grudges. Freddie Mercury’s personal life was cast in a negative light. The rest of the band was never an issue.
Freddie Mercury was the only one in the band who lived excessively. He was the only one who was ever late. His homosexuality was a problem. He was the one who wanted a solo career.
It is implausible that Mercury was the only member of one of the world’s most famous rock bands who did not live a wholesome lifestyle. Furthermore, every band has its internal strife. The revisionist history is even more complicated because Roger Taylor was actually the first Queen member to have a solo album.
How the film portrayed Freddie Mercury’s sexuality is the most troublesome aspect of Bohemian Rhapsody. There is the stereotypical truck stop scene (with current Queen frontman Adam Lambert). His fiancée refers to his sexuality as a potential “fault.” There is also a heavy insinuation that homosexuality was causing Mercury to live a ridiculous lifestyle that negatively impacted those around him.
It is surprising that a production assisted by his bandmates and directed by Bryan Singer (who is gay) would approve of a script that has such a lazy and harmful attitude towards homosexuality.
An artistic license is certainly necessary to make an entertaining film. When the untruths result in bad movie and are sloppy, licenses should be up for revocation.
The Missed Opportunities Of Bohemian Rhapsody
One thing that I looked forward to in this film was a taste of Freddie Mercury’s interactions with other music superstars. The film could have had several Aviator-style appearances that would have been natural to the story.
No David Bowie duet. No stars mingling at parties. Even the Live Aid sequence was limited to a brief, poorly-conceived scene with Elton John and Bob Geldof. Meanwhile, Wembley performers Phil Collins, U2, The Who, and Paul McCartney were nowhere to be found.
Freddie Mercury was one of the most famous musicians in the world and yet the only glimpse of stardom in Bohemian Rhapsody were a couple of parties.
There were also missed opportunities in Anthony McCarten’s screenplay. Most notably the “good thoughts, good words, good deeds” mantra of his father. It was noted in the film, but not woven into being an important aspect of the story.
I Learned Nothing About Freddie Mercury
Bohemian Rhapsody is 134 minutes long. I learned nothing new about Freddie Mercury.
I was six years old when Freddie Mercury died in 1991. I am not a Queen historian. I am knowledgeable of Queen’s music, but not intimately familiar with their story. I would even see the Queen + Adam Lambert cover band if nosebleeds tickets did not start at $79.50.
Despite depicting a fifteen-year period of his life, I gained little insight into the life of one of the most famous singers in the world.
This was the number one flaw of the film. The job of a biopic is to give the audience a walk in the subject’s shoes. As much as I disliked First Man, Ryan Gosling and Damien Chazelle gave a feel for what it was like to be Neil Armstrong.
In Spielberg’s Lincoln, I took away an appreciation for the last weeks of the president’s life. A story was crafted that allowed me to gain an artistic insight into Abraham Lincoln.
I gained no understanding of what it was like to be Freddie Mercury. I never felt like I was taking a walk in his shoes or gained a decent glimpse of his personal or professional life. Everything was told distantly and hastily.
When a movie fails on this many levels, it is amazing that it can receive so much positive attention. I know there are films like The Shape of Water and Roma that do not resonate with me as much as they do with others, but I understand why they received so much acclaim.
I get the popular appeal for a movie with a sweeping soundtrack. It is the Hollywood version of a Carole King or Motown musical. Bohemian Rhapsody is an undeniable commercial success. It should by no means be a critical one. It is objectively not a good movie that should not stand as one of the Best Pictures of 2018.