BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY: For a movie about envelope pushing Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), Anthony McCarten’s screenplay is laid out pretty much like a standard Hollywood biopic. The story traces the meteoric rise of the band when the bisexual Mercury joins up with the group adding his innovative ideas to fuse disparate musical genres only to have his life spiral out of control owing to his sexual risk-taking and substance abuse. It’s a fairly familiar plot that ends with a sort of ultimate redemption by way of Queen’s triumphant reunion performance at 1985’s Live Aid concert at packed Wembley Stadium in London. But the narrative is consistently tied in with the music and there’s little difficulty in seeing why the band resonated with a worldwide fan base in the ‘70s and ‘80s as we watch their creative minds come up with one hit song after another. Even if it feels like we’re watching a sort of greatest hits medley by the group, it’s enormously entertaining for both fans of Queen and non-fans alike. Plus there’s an especially charismatic performance from Malek (A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM) who shows the duality of Mercury’s confidence in charting his unique musical course along with his somewhat neurotic insecurities. The film is at its’ peak when it follows the artistic process and the chaos that goes along with it along with the inevitable “creative differences” that threatens the band’s existence. Malek’s scene with a producer (Aidan Gillen) urging him to go solo as they sit in the back of a limousine is reminiscent of Marlon Brando’s “I could’ve been a contender” dialogue with Rod Steiger in ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) and is laid out like a betrayal of the other bandmates (Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Joseph Mazzello) who are all well cast. Short shrift is given to the elements of Mercury’s life that shaped his musical genius like his relationship with a former fiancée (Lucy Boynton) and his gay manager/lover (Allen Leech) who’s portrayed in the film as a manipulative drug enabler but who we learn in the epilogue cared for the AIDS stricken musician up to his death. But the music raises this work to the above average level and it’s an insightful depiction of how difficult it is to change the status quo and how one can succeed despite that. CRITIC’S GRADE: B
CLOSING CREDITS: After over fifty years, The Beatles’ A HARD DAYS’ NIGHT (1964) remains the rock music movie by which all others in the subgenre are judged. Directed by Richard Lester (THE THREE MUSKETEERS, SUPERMAN II), the work is a pseudodocumentary about the popular rock band’s obsession with making music while they attempt to both escape from and build a relationship with thousands of their adoring, screaming fans. As you might imagine, there are plenty of songs on the soundtrack and Lester lets his imagination run wild as he films a typical day in the life of the group. It helps that The Beatles are all natural born comedians who seem positively amused by the adulation and attention heaped upon them. The movie is bold and inventive with a flashiness that heralded a new kind of musical film.