“Bohemian Rhapsody”, the movie ostensibly about the band Queen and focused on the life of Freddie Mercury has been getting panned in every review I’ve read so far. As a huge fan of the band I find it to be a bit of a bummer to hear, but not surprising. Biopics of this sort invariably are ham fisted and reduce the subject(s) to one dimensional characters. “The Doors”, by Oliver Stone comes to mind.
It’s not that the actors’ performances are bad per se (Forrest Whittaker as Charlie Parker in “Bird”), but the idea of recreating the totality of such complex figures who are larger than life to begin with is almost impossible. What to focus is on is often the problem. “Sid and Nancy” was more or less reduced to cartoon versions of two unfortunate people with heavy drug problems, and in Nancy Spungen’s case mental Illness (read “And I Don’t Want to Live this Life” written by Spungen’s mother for a harrowing account of her daughter’s problems). While Jim Morrison in the aforementioned “The Doors” reels off poetic jargon in nearly every sentence throughout the movie to the point of absurdity.
I’m sure there’s something I haven’t seen that’s well done and going by the words of the critics alone is not often wise, but the movies I’ve seen try to pack too much into a more or less conventional narrative that leaves many aspects of the band or performer much too thin. One exception I can think of is “Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould” which was very unconventional and didn’t pigeon hole its subject in any way.
In the end I think Hollywood more or less sucks at creating original and compelling content in general, and trusting them to tell the life of someone like Freddie Mercury, who is so many different things to so many different people, seems like a bad idea. I’d much prefer a documentary comprised of interviews, live footage and a talented director and editor to breathe humanity into people so talented or charismatic that they seem like gods to us.