Friday, December 28, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody [2018]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (O) (1 Star)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review

Bohemian Rhapsody [2018] (directed by Bryan Singer screenplay by Anthony McCarten story by Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan) tells the story of Freddie Mercury (played in the film by Rami Malek) lead singer of the British 1970s-80s rock group Queen.

First some disclaimers (seriously).  I realize that for many Readers here -- it's a blog written by a Catholic priest after all -- that the man who came to call himself "Freddie Mercury" came out as gay and later died of AIDS (specifically of AIDS related pneumonia) would be probably all that one would need to know about the film.  Indeed, though rated PG-13 (and having, of course, seen the film, I think it basically meets _the technical requirements_ of the rating) I struggle to understand why a teenager today would want to see a film about a rock star who _may_ have been important to his/her parents' (my) generation but who in the mind of a teenager today might as well have been "born before time itself."  So I wonder if the true reason for making this film a PG-13 movie rather than an R-rated one was that the necessary sanitization of the material allowed for a more sympathetic portrayal of Mercury and his friends than an R-rated version would have.

THAT ALL SAID, I do believe that there is a compelling story to be told here ... one in which Mercury's strange, often (WAY, way) "over-the-top" behavior becomes quite understood.

Born Farroch Bulsara of Indian Parsi origin (neither Hindu nor Muslim but Zoroastran in religion) and immigrant to London from the former British colony, er, "Protectorate" of Zanzibar (an island nation off the coast of East Africa), Mercury's life would have been challenging (in London, England, Europe) from the get-go.  He survived at least partially by _embracing_ indeed EXAGGERATING his almost "out of this world" origins, dressing flamboyantly (portrayed in the film as almost like a young Mummar Gadaffi), wearing eye-makeup and speaking with an _exaggerated_ accent.  To his parents, Parsis, yes, but CONSERVATIVE (and I don't care what religious background one comes from, Rule #1 of religious conservatism is almost _always_ DON'T STICK OUT) their flamboyantly dressed and extravagantly accented son was growing up to be an abomination.  They certainly would have blamed his outward behavior on "(cosmopolitan) London" / "Western values."  Yet, to his English friends, his flamboyance actually made him "interesting" as opposed to "scary."

And so coming out of this background, the rock group Queen's eventual flamboyance (Mercury became its lead singer) makes a lot of sense, even as the group's other, English, members themselves are portrayed as finding Mercury's antics, partying and eventual open hedonistic homosexuality increasingly too much for them as well.

Is there a lesson there?  Boy there is.  IMHO it is a reminder to all of us that there's _almost always_ "a story" behind someone's behaving strangely, "outside the norms" and if one knew "the story" one would better understand that person.

In that regard, truly AN EXCELLENT FILM.

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