Saturday, July 13, 2024

Bohemian Rhapsody, Bryan Singer

Τitle: Bohemian Rhapsody
Director: Bryan Singer
Released: 2018

When you hear that a biopic of the rock music band Queen and Freddie Mercury is going to be released the expectations are high. As it turns out, this is a toned-down, modest approach to the course of events that led the band to its legendary status. Freddie Mercury fans will probably feel let down if they expect a thorough look into his talented personality and those who are newcomers to the group (the younger generations I suppose) could easily be misinformed.

Bryan Singer, who is the director, does present the development of the band from its genesis up to the death of its lead singer, but his target audience is presumably too wide and the liberties taken when depicting the historical facts far too many.

One of the film’s faults lies within Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury. True, his performance has received accolades and from a technical point of view, it is worth watching. But this doesn’t mean that this isn’t an advantageous role and it makes one wonder how the singer would have been depicted by another actor. Malek uses a variety of acting techniques to bring his role to life but one could argue that this is merely a visualisation of the singer. According to people who had known him, Freddie Mercury used to be a charismatic, intelligent, generous person. On the contrary Malek’s performance reduces these traits to a kind of caricature, mainly in the first part of the film (and I doubt that this is Malek’s fault, who has otherwise proven to be a worthy actor in other instances).

As far as the physical resemblance to Freddie Mercury is concerned, the differences are huge: Mercury’s brown eyes are no match for Malek’s green, while the prosthetic teeth are way too far-fetched and obvious. This is not to say an actor must resemble 100% the person he or she is depicting (and let us not forget the biographical I’m Not There by Todd Haynes where Cate Blanchett very successfully managed to portray Bob Dylan). But there should definitely be a borderline between approximating what the singer looked like and actually respecting his physical traits.

What is more, some important events are shown under entirely different circumstances, while the film refrains from uncovering the singer’s darker side. One could also argue that there are passages where Freddie Mercury’s behaviour and his gradual alienation from the rest of the band are misjudged. Freddie Mercury himself once stated that he had a vision of his life becoming a movie and, with all the things he had gone through, this would have have been a triple X feature. The present film, by trying to please a greater part of moviegoers, only has a PG-13 rating.

The film does, however, have some positive aspects and when it tries to capture the atmosphere of the period it mostly succeeds. The staging of the Live Aid concert, for example, is more than impressive, even though it could have been a tad more emotional in nature (look for example at Bradley Cooper’s emotional and utterly realistic depiction of a stage concert in A Star is Born where you actually feel the thrill of facing the masses). Last but not least, it’s a shame that some important pieces like Show Must Go On are left out (it can be heard at the second half of the End Credits though) while, overall, the film tries too hard to have a dramatic impact.

This is not a bad movie, nonetheless, but as a piece of art, it is below average. One the one hand, the fact that it tries to keep the legend of such an important band alive should be applauded. On the other hand, I do hope that another film will be made in the future, one that does full justice to the legendary status of Queen, and especially to the charismatic persona of Freddie Mercury.


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