Cinema Stephanie “Blogette”, Vol. 2, No. 7 (for previous reviews see LAHIFF website link below)
London, England (Oct. 24, 2018)
Bohemian Rhapsody(2018, UK-U.S.A.; 20thCentury Fox, 134 min., PG-13,Dir. Bryan Singer)
Update: Saw BR again Nov. 9 and it was good, if not better. In fact would see it again. Added notes to original review underlined below).
Attending 62nd annual BFI London Film Festival for eight of the 12 day days (for me Oct. 12-19; more forthcoming write ups) viewing 20 films was like the starter and main course, with the “pudding” (dessert) BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (BR)(opened in UK Oct. 23 and Nov. 2 in USA), story of the meteoric rise of beloved band Queenwhose innovative choices “rocked” the music scene with their inspired style, that still resonates with musical power.
It was Wednesday matinee day so I ventured to a play in the West End starring two significant actors, however mediocre experience not worth writing about. Nearby in Leicester Square Cinema BH was playing, premier was evening prior in Wembley Stadium (with 8K audience), so I went where my feet took me (a la Zorba the Greek) to the 4:30 pm screening on the IMAX screen. That’s the best way to view this BIG movie about the rise of the band and especially the story of the lead singer. the extraordinary Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek).
Not being a pop music fan per se, yet not entirely ignorant, I was aware of the band, however never paid much attention. Thus I was duly “unprepared audience”, which means fresh if not naive, and became completely caught up in the kinetic mood and rapture from the opening exposition when young Freddie nee “Farrokh Bulsara” aspiring artist/musician was working as a baggage handler at Heathrow airport by day and checking out bands and clubs by night, against the “wisdom” of his conservative government employee father who espoused “good thoughts, good words, good deeds.” Freddie’s personality is strong and driven. A moderate rebel at the threshold of “Swinging London” bound to fulfill his manifest destiny and become a legend in his own time. Malek is authentic not imitative - he was born to play this role - as he becomes the “force of nature” Freddie Mercury, a sort of messenger of the Gods of music, in a brilliant tour de force performance.
The film is hardly a documentary, yet sometimes has that tone as if being part of the evolution of the band coming into its own, their unique brilliance evolving as revealed through adroit direction of Bryan Singer, Anthony McCarten’s superior script (story by McCarten and Peter Morgan), and inspired editing and production design. The inspired collaboration of band members Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor), Joe Mazello (John Deacon) - exceptionally talented musicians with great intellect - independent, yet close, is a didactic revelation. The cast perfectly matched to the real members of the band, as is entire litany of characters from friends to foes.
Chronology and plot points, accurate or embellished, are part of dramatic license that can be acceptable when presented so skillfully. The creation of the audacious enigmatic six minute “Bohemian Rhapsody” disdained by some simply for its length, is fascinating and comical; and became a phenomena. Though “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions,” are Queen’s hallmark tunes that continue to enthrall with the songs evoking passion and pathos.
Freddie’s contagious personality, his love and respect for family, though he diverted on his own path, demonstrates his independence and humanity. His relationship with lovely Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), who he regarded as if his wife, even as he discovers his dominant sexuality, is poignant and enduring, clearly fundamental in his adult life and how he demonstrated his devotion providing for her upon his death.
Queen’s musical composition and captivating lyrics resonate with clarity, not bashing and screeching like some rock sounds and genius of Freddie and the band. It’s amazing to feel part of the glory and witness the disruption and egoism of Freddie surrounded by sycophants, that leads to a “break”, then his epiphany and apology that reunites them for the famed Live Aid concert in Wembley (1985). One feels actually part of the revelry, swept up in the excitement as Freddie engages the crowd with zeal and flamboyance mesmerizing and engaging, effectivly making the audience his.
See the movie and sing along, laugh along, weep along in very emotional moments, feel the excitement and fervor of the music and in particular the story of how a man fulfills imminent greatness, revels in it, succumbs to the decadence, appreciates and finds humility; and the band goes on, though without the “force of nature” will never the same. The culmination at Wembley proves that. The film plays to fans of all ages through the decades, and introduces Queen (as in regal) to a contemporary generation as the legacy continues.
If rock can be “classic” then the songs that are the soul of Queenqualify and will go on for eternity, thrilling and exhilarating. I laughed out loud and was moved to tears.
Be a Champion “darling”, and enjoy the show!
Note: There’s an interesting documentary “Queen Mercury Rising”(U.S.A., 57 min., Dir. Maureen Goldthorpe) view at this link, after seeing BH.
Stephanie Mardesich, Director & Founder LA Harbor International Film Festival (LAHIFF) www.laharborfilmfest.comTelephone (310) 519-0756
"To create a cinematic bridge between the people of the region and the people of the world." Save the Date” for 16th annual LAHIFF Mar. 14-17, 2019