Countdown to the Oscars: Bohemian Rhapsody

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The second review of our countdown to the Academy Awards arrives. This time it's about the biopic inspired by the life of Freddie Mercury

Countdown to the Oscars: Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody was perhaps one of the most anticipated films of last year. It had been announced a long time ago and changed directors twice during the shoot.

Leer en español: Cuenta regresiva para los Óscar: Bohemian Rhapsody

Now, it is nominated for five categories of the Academy Awards: Best Sound Editing, Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Lead Actor, and Best Film. It was, perhaps, the movie of the year in the sense in which it was highly anticipated, blockbuster, very popular and made Queen's songs known to a new generation, but can it really be among the best films of 2018?

Read also: These are the Oscar 2019 nominees

The argument and the character

The premise of the film is simple: it's about the life of Freddie Mercury since he joined Queen. The character of Freddie demonstrates arrogance concealed in tender gestures from the beginning of the film. Ashamed of his Parsi and Indian origins, Freddie despises his family and changes his name in the first scenes.

While trying to honor and idealize it, the film paints a villain who in the end redeems himself overnight. There is no complexity in Freddie Mercury, even though we know he is one of the most interesting characters in British music of his time. When he's bad, he really is bad, and when he's good, he is great. But none of these times, neither bad nor good, seem to be anticipated: it just seems to do things for no reason. There is no story behind him, his actions do not seem to be a consequence of anything. Everything in the movie is arbitrary.

The movie has been criticized a lot for "cleaning" Freddie's character. Many say that their bisexuality is not sufficiently explored (or exploited) in the film and that there is no kind of LGBTIQ + claim. I consider that when wanting to tell the life of Freddie Mercury, it is not necessary to make a movie compulsively demanding in this sense (although it does not make much sense to ignore his sexuality since it was an important aspect of his life and his genius).

However, the problem with the film is that it shows no interest in exploring, neither this nor any other aspect of Freddie Mercury's life with depth. Thus, the film does not ask about its genius, or about music. The name and the logo of the band, the songs, the tambourine, the dance, the costumes, everything simply appears in the film like that without further explanation, without any anticipation.

The same applies to betrayals, manipulation, redemption and forgiveness. Everything happens overnight. The film seems more like a collage of images in different moments of Queen, placed one behind the other, than a story with well-constructed characters.

As for Rami Malek, he is a great actor. His exaggerated faces, his opening his eyes too much, his chin up are things that have stood out as an actor and have helped him to print a stamp on his other characters. Here, however, these gestures played against him, because I always saw him and never saw Freddie.

To be fair, Malek did not have much to work with: all the dialogues of his character are, or a detestable arrogance, or cloying silliness. You can see a judicious actor who studied his character: his imitations, especially on stage, of Freddie's movements, are very good, but since he had a very poor script, the Freddie of Bohemian Rhapsody turns out to be more of a caricature than a complex character with sufferings and joys.

Read also: Countdown to the Oscars: Black Panther

A portrait of Queen

The other members of Queen, meanwhile, are all the same. Brian, Decay and Roger do not have different personalities, they are written in the same way. From one moment to another, we see that they have family and children, but we never found out how this happened.

When Freddie decides to separate from the band (another inconsistency of the film, because only two scenes before we had seen him say that he would never do a solo career), he lists all the problems they have had to overcome together, problems that we had not seen before: the distribution of money, the fights for authorship, the fatigue after the tours. Thus, the movie says but does not show.

Nor do we see how the Queen band became famous. The film is composed of many sequences in which they show us the band going on tour and being praised by their audience, while in the background some of their most famous songs and signs with the names of different cities come out. There are no transitions between one moment and another of the band: one day they write "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the other receives the news that the album is a success in the United States.

In the end, we see the concert in Wembley after Freddie has told his friends that he is infected with AIDS and that they have forcibly forgiven him. The concert is exciting and it's when you see how studious Malek was in Freddie's performance. The tears of her friend Mary are perhaps the most convincing of the whole movie. But this leaves a lot to be desired because if you want to get excited about this, you can always go to see the real band on YouTube instead of waiting at the end of the movie.


LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Rodríguez Pabón

Translated from "Cuenta regresiva para los Óscar: Bohemian Rhapsody "