I thought it was about time that I voiced my thoughts on Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic. I first saw the movie when it was released here in the cinemas in England in late 2018, and recently viewed it again on DVD.
The first thing to say is that Rami Malek delivers an impressive and endearing performance in the role of Freddie Mercury. He captures, I think, some of the complexities and contradictions in Freddie's personality. I have heard it suggested that such a performance is almost wasted on such a film, and I can see the merits in this argument.
I would also contend that the film is very well made from a technical point of view, with a clearly substantial budget, and the visuals are very appealing and well constructed. My own personal appraisal of the film overall is that it didn't really grab me emotionally, even with my affection for, and familiarity with, the subject matter.
I won't dwell too much on the lack of absolute historical accuracy in the movie, as this is a given with the majority of biopics. Over the years I have learned that it is difficult to comfortably watch biopics about subjects on which one is knowledgeable, as one will instantly start picking holes in the accuracy or otherwise of the piece. Just try to enjoy it for what it is. The picture was not produced for the benefit of Queen "anoraks" such as myself, but for the wider public.
The actors playing the other band members do a fine job. The guy playing Brian May got the demeanour and many of the mannerisms spot-on, although I was disappointed that "Roger Taylor"'s voice and accent were not closer to the "genuine article".
I thought that Lucy Boynton was very good as Mary Austin, adding some gravitas, and the Freddie/Mary sequences generally form the backbone of the movie for me, tracing the changes and turning-points in Freddie's life. The scenes exploring the singer's background and family also fulfill this function to some extent.
Some of the film is quite moving and sad, but there are also some good comedic touches, and amusing dialogue along the way. Part of the fun of watching the film should be to spot Mike Myers, which I failed to do straight away when I first saw it.
My own personal favourite scenes are those which chronicle the recording of "A Night At The Opera". These sections are beautifully done, very pleasant to the eye, and both amusing and in places poignant.
The concert sequences are what we have come to expect from such movies, and although I did not find them particularly convincing, they are not the reason why I watched the film. I was much more interested in the general narrative and the studies and development of characters.
I found the second half of the movie fascinating in some ways, as the timespan which it covers has been for me something of a "lost period" in the Queen story. Having reached some kind of peak of commercial success, problems began to emerge in the form of personal and artistic differences. How accurate a reflection of this era is presented in the movie is a matter of opinion, but I noted the dark tone of much of this section of the work, in contrast to the more bright and sprightly ambience of other areas of the film. To be honest, I was mildly surprised that this part of the story was covered with such candour.
People may think that Rami Malek occasionally goes "over the top", but it is very difficult to portray accurately and convincingly such a unique and charismatic person. It is difficult to imagine any other actor managing the task as well as Malek does here. I think he beautifully evokes some of the unreality and loneliness of fame and fortune.
So for me Bohemian Rhapsody the movie is by no means a masterpiece, but it is entertaining and slickly produced, with a snappy and organic flavour. It just lacks that intangible quality and dynamism which truly great cinema possesses, that which engages the watcher on a higher plane.
Tuesday, 26 March 2019
Monday, 18 March 2019
I recently finished reading this superb work, which is the second and concluding volume of Peter Guralnick's highly acclaimed biography of Elvis Presley. It takes the story from Elvis' induction into the US Army through to his death in August 1977.
The book takes in the "Hollywood years" of the 1960s, and excitedly documents Elvis' resurgence in the years 1968-73 (the Comeback Special, the "Suspicious Minds" period, the early Las Vegas years and the famous Hawaii satellite concert).
As I made way through Careless Love, my interest increasingly centered on the shifting dynamics within the Elvis entourage and family, including the so-called Memphis Mafia.
Guralnick captures the insidious and gradual nature of Elvis' descent into isolation and stagnation, with his increasing dependency on unhealthy lifestyle choices and his increasingly impulsive and bizarre behaviour.
My tentative interpretation was that a life which had once been so full of new, exciting and novel things became predictable, constricting and stultifying. The tipping point or source was imperceptible, and by the time it registered nobody knew how to forge an escape route. It seems that even as Presley's career fortunes were undergoing a pronounced upswing, his behaviour began to exhibit disturbing tendencies.
This is an absorbing and highly detailed book, intensively researched, but one cannot help but be saddened by the tale of decline and despair related in its closing chapters. I found the writing style very appealing and immersive. Highly recommended.