Another late to the line review, due to my lovely vacation in the Seattle area. It snowed on me on Mt. Ranier. I was a happy vampire princess. Today is my first full day back and I spent the better part of 5 hours at the theatre watching movies to catch up on reviews and have even more to do tomorrow night with The Girl in the Spiders Web and Overlord releasing then. This is probably one of the most broadly appealing movies of the fall season with anticipation of it building since the first trailer dropped months ago. There was of course potential controversy as to whether or not they would deal with Mercury’s sexuality, something he kept hidden from most the better part of his life and career. Fans were ecstatic at the casting of fellow middle easterner Rami Malek in the role as the Persian lead singer. Every review I’ve come across the title of (haven’t read or watched anyones yet), has indicated this film is nothing short of amazing.
I am not going to argue with them.
For our credits we have writer Anthony McCarten (story by/screenplay by) who delivered Theory of Everything and Darkest Hour to us over the past few years; which makes him almost a specialist in the biopic field for the cinema. We also have screenplay credit going to Peter Morgan, also a biopic specialist with such films as Rush, The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, and Frost/Nixon. These guys know their stuff and it shows in every bit of dialogue, every scene, and every bit of emotion delivered in the recommended direction given by their screenplay. They don’t shy away from controversy here or the darker elements of Mercury’s life. They make him neither hero nor villain, but a man who eventually became a legend and a Queer icon to this day.
*sigh* Ok, so I have to talk about Bryan Singer, who is our listed director here. We’ve known Singer can direct since The Usual Suspects and I have been a fan of almost every movie of his I have watched. In light of the #MeToo movement, I would be remiss to ignore his off screen antics and the accusations which go back to the early 90s. Let me make it clear, I believe the accusers. Fox must as well for they fired him from the picture back in December of last year and brought in Dexter Fletcher, an actor turned director to finish the film. The official story is Singer was erratic on set and had a fight with Malek, but Fletchers hiring was on the heels of the news breaking of the accusations about Singer coming to the public eye. I’ll have more commentary below in the TL:DR section but suffice to say the movie was well directed.
Malek for his part as Mercury nailed it. In every capacity. He brought the charm, the body language, the wit, and the voice. He also brought the pain in the final act that cannot be ignored. Rami was a perfect casting. I first saw him in the Twilight series as an Egyptian Vampire, followed by Mr. Robot, and then his epic mo-cap performance in the video game Until Dawn. He is amazing actor that deserves more parts and hopefully he is on the Best Actor considerations lists as he rightfully earns it. Recognition must go to the rest of “The Band” as Gwilym Lee has to take on the role of Brian May, Ben Hardy (Angel from X-Men Apocalypse), has to nail Roger Taylor, and Joseph Mazzello (Tim from Jurassic Park) has to cover John Deacon. For every bit that Malek has to carry the film as Mercury, these three men must make it feel like they are the rest of Queen and bring their own acting talents to full weight to keep up with Rami. They succeed in such a way that I forgot they were actors. When you consider how much weight the real May, Taylor, and Deacon had in the film with effort put to making sure that everything was to spec for the casting of Rami and that his performance did Freddie justice, you know they had their own thoughts on their counterparts.
The production design was top notch with a fantastic series of opening shots that bookend the film with the Live Aid performance in 1985. There is an almost surreal quality put to the film during that sequence that needs to be called out. There are other fantastic framing devices done throughout the film that would invoke my spoiler rule, but many of them just hit hard when they are done.
If you have been waiting for my review of this movie, you have it. That is to say go see it. It is well shot, well acted, and powerful. It doesn’t shy away from any aspect of Freddie Mercury’s life that I am aware of and is all the better for it. The movie is amazing and left me in tears when the soft lyrics of “Who Wants to Live Forever” begin to play at one point in the movie.
Would you see it again?
Yes, with the best sound system possible. It deserves it.
Alright – if you don’t care about the behind the scenes of the movie industry, please stop here. If you want to know more about that sort of thing continue on
Singer is being put forth for a “For Your Consideration” by Fox for the Academy Award. This is a loaded gun, but I am not sure what it’s loaded with to be honest. Fox fired him from the picture, yet he has sole directing credit. Do they have a choice? Well maybe, maybe not. There might be contract information between Fox and Singer that makes this non negotiable. I know from previous films I’ve reviewed a director cannot be removed from credit unless a substantial (roughly 70% of the movie) is reshot/redone; which is how Lord and Miller were able to be removed from Solo, but Gareth Edwards remained on for Rogue One, even though Tony Gilroy came in later. So they have to keep him on the credit, which means Fletcher only did some minor work on the film. Singer didn’t remove himself or release them, which is an interesting move on his part as well.
The play by Fox here isn’t as black and white as one would think and I have a feeling there is more in the background we don’t know. So what happens if he wins? Oof. That is an interesting question. Would the Academy even let it go up for a best director or best picture because of this and take the risks in light of #MeToo? Should or could it get a Best Picture or Best Director nod from the Academy? Objectively yes. Subjectively….no. I hate to say it but as this is a new release not something out for years, we cannot separate the art from the artist here and even as Hollywood continues to praise the likes of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, a line must be drawn. Here is a good place to do it.
While the movie is put forward for Best Director/Picture, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts should not move it forward in these categories. Writing sure. Acting, absolutely. Cinematography – without a doubt. Just…not the other two. If it wins Best Picture, Singer would have to walk to the stage as traditionally the director accepts this.
You can see why this is a problem?
I don’t know that I will do an editorial, but there will be a lot of judging eyes on the Academy in the weeks to come as this unfolds.