Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello
Director: Bryan Singer (Dexter Fletcher)
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.39:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 135 Minutes
Release Date: February 12, 2019
ďIs this the real life? Is this just fantasy?Ē
Any time a biopic is made of a massively popular figure, thereís bounds to be grumbles of discontent.
Case in point: I remember seeing the movie Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and personally finding it wonderfully entertaining, having had only a high level knowledge of Lee. My good friend at the time was OBSESSED with Bruce Lee, and hated this movie with a passion. He talked all the time about things the film got wrong or just blatantly made up. I canít remember all of his gripes, but one was how the movie made it look like Lee had come up with the idea for the television series Kung Fu and then was denied the role for racist reasons, when the truth was Bruce was just one of hundreds of actors who tried out for the part of Cain and didnít get it.
Bohemian Rhapsody remained a must-see movie for my wife and I from the time the first trailer rolled out. I love Queen, and I love Freddie Mercury. I saw it on opening day and enjoyed it. I knew it wasnít perfect, but I didnít expect it to be.
What really surprised me though was the onslaught of negative feedback in the press about the picture, many for misguided reasons. The most loathsome was a writer for Roger Ebertís website, who decried the film for not celebrating Freddie Mercury as a gay icon, and even was hateful enough to suggest the movie was meant to comfort homophobics. Absolutely appalling assessment.
Of course, Freddie was gay. I grew up with Queenís music, and it was one of the worst kept secrets in rock music, even while he was alive. But Freddie never saw himself as a gay icon, staying as closeted as possible during his life until his death of complications from AIDS. He was always about the music.
And even then, the film finds some dissatisfied murmurs from fans OF the music, in that the movie often put things out of chronological order, barely mentioned most of their great albums and songs, and didnít really get as close to a legendary bandís creative process as they would have liked. Iím guessing most biopic posters should have the disclaimer ďwe canít please everybodyĒ.
As a fan, I recognized the flaws. But I didnít see the movie as straight biography as much as I did a celebration of Queen and its music, and its unflappable front man. With that mindset, I found the film extremely enjoyable, and found quibbling over details no more useful than tugging away at frayed threads.
The one seemingly universal praise was reserved entirely for star Rami Malek, who explodes off the screen as Mercury. As someone who never got to see Queen live, I think I got to experience the next best thing, thanks not only to Malik, but to the trio of actors who rounded out the band. Man, they all looked and sounded authentic, and even appeared to be able to handle their instruments correctly (as a guitarist, itís always blatantly obvious to me when an actor with an axe doesnít know what the hell heís doing).
That alone made the movie worthwhile to me. I enjoyed what there was of creative banter, the back story of how a young Persian became a rock god, and his struggles with his own personal life. Personally, I feel every aspect of the complicated story was handled respectfully, if not completely. The movie doesnít shy away from Freddieís sexuality, nor does it wallow in it. Itís presented simply as one manís experience. Rami Malek captures every moment, whether bigger than life or intimate and minute, with humanity, personality, and vitality. My fingers are crossed for him to walk away with an Oscar for his work.
So no, seeing Bohemian Rhapsody will not make you an expert on all things Queen, but casual fans should be entertained. Rabid fans will be too, if they could put away their gripe list and just enjoy the ride. As for Freddie? If all you see him as is a gay icon, you may be disappointed. If all you see him as is a rock legend, possibly the same. But if youíre willing to look at the human being behind the hysteria, youíll find what this film has to offer to be plenty captivating.
BONUS TRIVIA: Joe Mazzello, who plays bassist Roger Deacon, was the young boy in Jurassic Park!
BONUS TRIVIA II: Dexter Fletcher directed most of this movie after Bryan Singer was fired, but is uncredited as director, and therefore, ineligible for Oscar consideration.
Iíd love to see the 4K edition, but this Blu-ray delivers the high definition goods with no complaints. All the colors and shades of Queenís worlds come through with vividity, clarity and crispness, with no grain or artifacting to distract.
This is where the real pleasure of the movie liesÖmy wife and I saw it in IMAX just for the audio experience. Here, the uncompressed offering is dynamic and powerful, brining the live frenzy of rock and roll euphoria to life in your living room. Dialogue is well-balanced throughout.
The extras include the complete recreation of the Live Aid concert, and featurettes on the concert, Rami Malek, and Queen, plus three trailers.
Bohemian Rhapsody may not be the perfect Queen movie, but I donít know what movie would have pleased all audiences. If you can forgo your own personal quibbles with this detail or that and just go along for the ride, youíll have a great time. And again, Rami Malekís performance is a true game-changer.