Bohemian Rhapsody 4K UHD (2018)

bohem1.jpgWell, you can’t accuse the producers of this film of letting the truth get in the way of a really good story. Basically a sanitised story about the great rock band Queen, it definitely is not a warts-and-all biopic of its frontman Freddie Mercury. The fascinating drama I expected, of drugs, sex and rock and roll and living life to the max isn’t really here. Instead this film follows a somewhat pedestrian, formulaic narrative of four outsiders creating a legendary rock band, ts various plot threads leading to a somewhat dubious finale in which the band single-handedly saves Live Aid, the recreation of which is pretty astonishing (but as a finale it feels too obvious/manufactured).

So in some ways it does seem to be a terribly wasted opportunity- on the other hand, though, it’s simply a great yarn simply told, with an absolutely killer soundtrack of classic songs throughout. Its pretty much nigh on irresistible.

I’m not a die-hard fan of the band so I’m certainly no expert, but I’m pretty certain some of the timeline is questionable, and to be honest there was a point midway through at which I just felt I was being taken for a mug but should just go along with it. The film feels more of a rock and roll fantasy than a docu-drama, and the way it manipulates with close-up shots of smiling, happy faces towards the end, tieing up any loose ends with valedictory character beats for Freddie’s freinds, family and colleagues, feels awfully… managed, even cynical. We’re going to have a happy, positive flag-waving finale even though we know where Freddie’s own story is ultimately heading: it’s only a movie and this one isn’t going to end like Philadelphia (which may be a pity, really, because that was deeply powerful, and maybe this film might have benefited from doing that- but this just isn’t that movie).

Its a decidedly PC-era film about a decidedly un-PC era, leaving me wondering if there’s a danger nowadays of us rewriting history simply to make it more palatable. I’ve read and heard of some pretty incredible stories of bands and rock stars in the 1970s- drugs, sex, wild parties, great music, monumental fights, terrible scandals; but how much of that can you get way with now without upsetting/insulting/horrifying the tender audiences of today’s more enlightened society? I’ve read of some of Freddies parties, the wild debauchery of which could be hugely extravagant and ridiculous but there is little to suggest that here other than people getting drunk and playing music loud. Then again, we might know that it all happened, but do we need to see it, does it add anything to the narrative in a film where we aren’t really getting into who Freddie was? Instead he remains an icon, and something of an enigma- and a fantastic performer and musician. I just think its a little unfortunate that the film is so obviously intent on protecting Freddie and his legacy when it doesn’t really need to- his fans know everything and love him all the more. He was human, flawed and fragile and hugely charismatic and talented- we get a glimpse of the ‘real’ Freddie but not all we might have in a more daring film.

But what the hell, it’s still a hell of a story.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Bohemian Rhapsody 4K UHD (2018)

  1. It’s certainly a divisive film — immensely popular with audiences (high scores on IMDb; highest grossing music biopic ever), but you don’t have to look hard on Twitter to find people who despise everything about it (and were particularly outraged by its Oscar wins). I think that’s somewhat to do with a difference of approach: the latter generally want something salacious that they think will better reflect the truth, but the former embrace the film for what it is — it’s explicitly intended as a celebration of Freddie, and of Queen’s music, with a more family-friendly approach than a warts-and-all R-rated one. Is it wrong to handle the biopic of an inter-generationally popular band in that way? Well, let’s not forget, it’s really an officially-licensed product from the band: Brian May and Roger Taylor are listed as producers, and I don’t think that was merely a token credit.

    1. I was really torn on whether to buy the Blu-ray or go the extra mile and buy the 4K UHD, as the mixed reviews worried me. As it turned out, those doubts may have helped me enjoy the film more (reduced expectations etc) and the 4K looks great (albeit not spectacular). Clearly the film is a Queen Limited Production, which rather pisses on the Rock and Roll integrity of the band that started it all, but that’s show business. I think a Led Zeppelin biopic would be rather different…

  2. Pingback: The 2019 List: March – the ghost of 82

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