Review | Bohemian Rhapsody is likable and entertaining, despite a few flaws
“Bohemian Rhapsody” (Rated T)
Cast: Rami Malek, Ben Hardy, Mike Myers, Joseph Mazzello
November is here! And we’re at the start of what will be a mad and steady influx of new film releases through to the end of the year.
With so many major releases each week, it will be easy to fall behind.
Last weekend alone, locally, we had “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” and “Nobody’s Fool”.
This weekend there’s “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch”, “Overlord” and “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”; with “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” and “Widows” slated for the following week.
Then there’s Thanksgiving/Black Friday with “Robin Hood”, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” and “Creed II”. And sprinkled throughout the month, there’s “Greenbook”, “A Private War”, “Boy Erased”, “The Front-Runner” and many smaller releases.
Just a quick word about “Halloween” , which I saw a couple weeks ago. This very violent and ultimately silly slasher flick is arguably the very best in this 40-year old franchise. It makes the 1978 film seem like a child’s homework project, and gives star Jamie Lee Curtis – who debuted in that groundbreaking (and much copied) original – what may actually be her finest film performance ever.
Your enjoyment level for the new film “Bohemian Rhapsody” will likely depend on how much you enjoy the music of “Queen”.
Unless you were born within the last decade, you’re sure to know at least one song from this genre-hopping and category-defying rock group.
Arguably their famous sports anthems, “We Are The Champions” and its companion piece “We Will Rock You”, are their best-known hits. But there are so many more, including “Another One Bites the Dust”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “Somebody to Love”, “You’re My Best Friend” and, of course, the unforgettable rock opera “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
But even if you’re not familiar with them, there’s a lot to like about this biopic. There are also some things that are puzzling and others that are downright questionable.
For one, is this about Queen, or is it about the very interesting life of the group’s extraordinary lead singer, the late Freddie Mercury. If it’s the former, some may likely say the focus is too much on Freddie. If it’s the latter, many will say it doesn’t go far enough into exploring a truly fascinating personality.
The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through its iconic songs and revolutionary sound. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn, Freddie, surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates.
Emmy-winning actor Rami Malek is excellent as Freddie. But there is an asterisk. And for some it will be a giant one. It centers on the “Mr. Robot” star’s singing, or the sort of lack thereof.
Very few people on the planet can sing like a Freddie Mercury, or even get close to replicating his stunning octave range. As such, apparently some complex composite lip-synching techniques were used, incorporating Malek’s and some other person’s voice to try to get near to what Freddie could achieve.
Okay! Those Academy Award folks prefer when you do your own singing. But again, it’s Freddie Mercury!
Then, there’s the general nature of these types of pictures. Biopics on musicians (or actors, or anyone famous actually) usually are all the same. No matter what genre of music, the musicians sing the same tune. You probably already know the notes and can play them by ear – egomania, narcissism; sex addiction; and especially drugs, drugs and also drugs!
Yes, we’ve seen this sheet music a million times already. For once wouldn’t it be nice to learn about a famous person with some wild type of affliction, perhaps a crippling addiction to collecting dust bunnies or dryer lint? Anything new, please!
In that regard, “Bohemian Rhapsody” offers little new other than delving into aspects of Freddie Mercury’s sexuality – a topic which many similar films often gloss over.
At times, it feels like we’re watching a filmed Broadway rock musical – one of those featuring full-length songs from the same artist, with scenes written around those performances. There are pros and cons to this. If you can sit back and enjoy the music, you’ll notice those cons a lot less.
And one final issue – and many will say it’s the big-daddy one – involves timelines not adding up, and the application of some liberal creative license.
The final scenes involve Queen’s participating in that massive Live Aid Concert in 1985. According to most reports, Freddie didn’t learn he had AIDS until at the earliest 1986 or ‘87, and he didn’t confirm this to the public until 1991, just before he died.
In an interesting piece of revisionist history, the film has Freddie finding out about his illness and reuniting with Queen just in time to take part in the massive international concert to raise money for famine relief in Africa.
In any event, and by most accounts, even among some of the hottest artists of the day, Queen managed to steal the show, with what many regard as one of the greatest rock performances in the history of rock.
However, this timeline adjustment for the sake of the story creates the most memorable moment for the entire film. With Freddie and the band knowing his fate, there is a new poignancy to the words of every song in what apparently was a 21-minute set (and which feels just about as long in the re-enactment for the movie, adding to that odd Broadway musical feeling).
With that stirring music and those themes and lyrics about regret, love and loss and even dying, you’ll never listen to any Queen song the same way ever again.
In addition to its decent sense of humor and good performances, and insight into what inspired some of the most iconic pop/rock songs in the last four decades and one of the most popular rock groups of all time, this surprising concert recreation is the highlight of what is an extremely likable and entertaining film, despite its few flaws; it is a must-see for any Queen fan.
Nobody’s Fool is the stuff of kindergarten stories, after-school specials and Hallmark Channel movies
“Nobody’s Fool” (Rated C)
Cast: Tiffany Haddish, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick, Whoopi Goldberg
Genre: Romantic comedy
Tiffany! Tika! Tyler!
To those three T’s (for Haddish, Sumpter and Perry, respectively) here’s a fourth to add to the list – Terrible!
“The list” is a reference to a ridiculous plotline in the almost unspeakably awful new film, “Nobody’s Fool” – a romantic (supposed) comedy packing concentrated doses of disappointment at every turn.
What could be so wrong?
First off, it promotes itself as being about “catfishing”, the term for someone who sets up a false social networking profile for deceptive or fraudulent purposes.
The official film synopsis claims: After serving five years in prison, wild child Tanya (Haddish) looks to her buttoned-up, by-the-book sister, Danica (Sumpter), to help her get back on her feet. The feisty ex-con becomes suspicious and concerned when Danica tells her that she’s in a long-distance, online relationship with a mysterious man she’s never seen. As the polar opposites start to collide, Tanya soon discovers that her sibling’s picture-perfect life may not be what it seems.
Talk about being catfished!
As long as it took you to read that summary, that’s pretty much the extent of that catfishing storyline. In reality, this is just a regular, old, silly romantic dramedy about recognizing and appreciating that nobody is perfect, and about understanding that you won’t get everything you want on your ideal human-mate “wish list”.
It’s the stuff of kindergarten stories, afterschool specials and Hallmark Channel movies.
Next, just like “Night School” – another Haddish film from just a couple months ago (one of four she’s in this year alone) – “Nobody’s Fool” is plagued by its false advertising of Haddish. From commercials and trailers, you’d get the impression this flick centers on the “Girls Trip” star’s character. You’d be a fool!
Haddish, who is this close to being overexposed, receives top billing, no doubt to capitalize on her current “it-ness” and “hot-ness”. However, she is truly just a supporting cast-member, and largely here for what someone mistakenly believes is “comic” relief.
Like a bull in a china shop, Haddish cranks out the most crass, lowbrow phrases, hammering through her scenes in a manner far more cringe-worthy than comedic.
It’s as if someone is in the middle of hosting the worst party ever, and desperately scrambles at the last minute to find an entertainer in the Yellow Pages (not even online – it’s that bad!). Moments later, the clown from Stephen King’s “It” shows up, high on amphetamines (or worse), determined to make everyone laugh at any cost, even the partygoers in comatose states on the couch.
That clown stands there, in the middle of that lame party, pulling out every single handkerchief in its pocket (all 2,000 of them) within about two minutes.
This all borders on assault, but mercifully the farce is short-lived. The true nature of this nonsense is revealed by about half-way through the picture (the “medication” wears off, one presumes). And like Pennywise, Haddish retreats to the background and into the storm drains and the sewers, as Hardwick (TV’s “Power”) and Sumpter (from “The Haves and the Have Nots” on Oprah’s OWN) take center stage.
Despite the shift, the massive talent destruction and résumé parasitosis continues. Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg is reduced to a nutty weed-obsessed mom. A cameo by Chris Rock is also a similar waste.
After some pretty awful theatrical releases, Perry had seemed to plateau with some watchable (but not quite lovable) productions. Any gains made are all but lost with this massive step backward. The prolific writer, producer and director is proving he’s far better at helming campy but entertaining television soaps than movies.
Haddish would do wise to not allow her talents to be so maligned and aligned with garbage. That is, if she is “Nobody’s Fool”.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.