Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Review (with spoilers!)

UPDATE: I saw this movie a fourth time and I have more thoughts. I loved it the fourth time around. I think I was incorrect in my claim that Freddie is not portrayed well. I think the real problem is that the other band members are portrayed as being too good (in the scene I mentioned), which by contrast makes Freddie not look great. I think Freddie’s portrayal is actually fairly flawless (what did we do to deserve Rami Malek?)

And I think I can kind of get over the inconsistencies mentioned. For some reason those things didn’t bother me as much on this most recent viewing, mostly because I was so absorbed in the performances.

Basically, this movie, while it has some problems, is a fantastic Queen movie. It’s not a documentary by any means, but it is a good portrayal of the band that captures the reasons why I love Queen so much. The movie really captures how close the four of them were, how they were constantly pushing one another to do better, and just how influential they were to music.

I’ve decided that the acting and musical performances make up for all of the problems for me.

It’s not a perfect movie, and it’s certainly not the best movie I’ve seen all year in terms of writing, but I can now say that’s it’s definitely my favorite movie I’ve seen all year.

Original review:

I’ve been in a bit of a reading lull since NaNoWriMo started. But I haven’t been in a movie lull. I have AMC’s A-List subscription service, which lets you see three movies/week for $20/month. When I see a movie I like, I don’t feel so guilty seeing it multiple times. I’m paying $20 per month regardless so I might as well get the most out of it.

I didn’t think I would see many movies this month because of NaNoWriMo, but Bohemian Rhapsody came out on 11/2 and I’ve already seen it three times.

If you follow me on Twitter, I’m so sorry that I never shut up about this movie. I’m obsessed with it. But after seeing it a third time last night, I’m not sure that I actually like the movie. I feel very torn about Bohemian Rhapsody.

Obviously the acting and casting is fantastic. Rami Malek owns the role of Freddie Mercury, and watching him talk about Freddie in interviews (this one in particular I just love) makes me love his performance even more. He was so into the role and I think Freddie would have been proud of his portrayal.

Initially, I was so shocked when he was cast as Freddie because the only thing I’d seen him in was Mr. Robot and I had no idea how he could go from that role to being Freddie Mercury. But he was absolutely fantastic.

Gwilym Lee looks and sounds exactly like Brian May. It’s uncanny. I think he might have been my favorite. I loved the moments where he looks at Freddie on stage with such admiration. It was lovely.

Joe Mazzello also looks a lot like John Deacon. Ben Hardy doesn’t really look or sound like Roger Taylor, but I still liked him in the movie regardless.

The four of them also had such great chemistry. I sometimes forgot that I was watching a movie — that’s how convincing the performances were.

The musical performances were also great. Again, mostly because of Rami’s stage presence. The way he moves on stage was so Freddie. The recreation of Queen’s Live Aid performance blew me away. I think that scene alone is why I’ve been to see the movie so many times.

There was a lot of controversy leading up to the film because of concern that Freddie’s sexuality and AIDS diagnosis would be glossed over. I don’t think that was the case at all. His sexuality plays an important role throughout. They moved up the AIDS diagnosis a few years, but that didn’t really bother me. It seems like either they move the timeline up or not give it the time needed (since the film ends with Live Aid). I’m glad they ended the film on a positive note — one of Freddie’s greatest moments on stage — while still addressing his illness.

And at the same time, they didn’t harp on it too much, which I think is how Freddie would have wanted it. He didn’t inform the public that he had AIDS until the day before he died. He didn’t want to be a poster boy for AIDS. He wanted people to focus on him and his music, not feel sorry for him. And I think the film strikes a nice balance with that and honors him well.

But the negatives:

The music chronology issues don’t bother me, probably because I’m a younger fan and grew up listening to their music digitally and didn’t really pay attention to which songs are on which albums, for the most part. Everything by Queen has always just been available to me so I have no idea which things came first.

But the inconsistencies between what’s in the movie and what actually happened, particularly the whole drama of Freddie going solo and breaking up the band, really bothered me. Roger and Brian also did solo projects, and did them before Freddie in fact. They all did things on their own, but it was on the side and the band never broke up because of it. I think I read that they agreed on a planned break to focus on solo stuff, but they never broke up, and definitely not for years like the movie implies.

Adding in things that didn’t happen (and leaving out information like Roger and Brian having already done solo projects by that point) just for the sake of making it more dramatic really annoyed me. I don’t doubt that there was tension in the band at times — in fact, I think the band was on the verge of breaking up leading up to Live Aid because they weren’t able to get on the charts anymore and the band wasn’t really going anywhere any more. But the movie seems to blow everything out of proportion and blame all of the band’s problems on Freddie.

I get that it’s a movie and they need to create tension, but I think there are so many other ways they could have introduced tension into the story without making something up that was so completely wrong.

There’s another scene with a party thrown by Freddie that makes it seem like Freddie was the only member of the band who was doing drugs and drinking and living the rock and roll lifestyle, while the other members of the band are all saints. In reality, they were probably all just as bad as Freddie in that respect, but they come across as being the good ones with families to go home to.

I feel like the movie overall doesn’t paint Freddie in a very good light, which just feels a bit dirty since he’s the only one who could not have had a say in the film (both Roger Taylor and Brian May were involved with the movie).

I think the reason I’m having so many negative thoughts after my third viewing and not after the first two is that I had watched the Days of Our Lives documentary about the band the night before, so the inaccuracies really stuck out.

I wonder if some of the deleted scenes make these scenes less jarring. It just feels like there’s something missing.

Another issue is the weird pacing. The beginning is so rushed, and I get that there was a lot of stuff to fit into a 2.5 hour movie, but the scenes in the beginning are so rushed.

Also I noticed two inconsistencies with the movie itself that are kind of annoying:

  • The first is the timeline of the Rio concert/Freddie ending his relationship with Mary and the creation of “We Will Rock You.” So that Rio concert, in the context of the movie, was probably mid-70s, and “We Will Rock You” is written after the time jump to 1980. But then in that scene where he’s introducing the idea of “We Will Rock You” to the band, Brian says something along the lines of “Remember at our last concert when the audience was singing our song back to us?” He’s obviously referring to “Love of My Life” at the Rio show, but that concert was over five years ago according to the movie.
  • The other thing is how the scene before they go on stage is different in the beginning and end of the movie. In the beginning, Freddie is alone and the camera is following behind him to the stage. But then in the actual Live Aid scene, the band is right behind him. It makes no sense. Why film this scene twice and do it differently each time?

So yeah, I’m still a bit torn about this movie. On the one hand, it’s super fun to watch for the most part. Seeing Live Aid in a theater was incredible. The last 30 minutes of the movie were great. I loved everything after the scene with the band getting back together. That love between them is what I wanted from this movie. But now I feel a bit guilty throwing praise at the movie because of the things I mentioned.

I think if I had to pick between loving and hating this movie, I’d say that I love it. It has some problems, but overall I have a good time when watching it, and Rami Malek’s performance is electrifying. I don’t think I would have dragged myself to the theater on three separate occasions if it was complete crap.

I hope that this movie gets a new generation of fans interested in Queen’s music and their story. I was always a fan of their music, but I didn’t really know much about the band before. After the movie, I did so much research to sort out what was true and what wasn’t, and I got really into their story.

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