60 posts categorized "Biopic"

November 05, 2018

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Bohemian_rhapsody“Bohemian Rhapsody” achieves its dramatic goal of celebrating the unforgettable music of a groundbreaking rock band whose omnisexual lead singer Freddie Mercury remains a revered pop figure for many good reasons. As with any biopic, this film’s success relies on the ability of the actor portraying the film’s subject to inhabit that person entirely. Indeed, Rami Malek carries off a spitting-image portrayal of Freddie Mercury that wins you over from his first appearance as a singer whose signature overbite allowed Mercury a greater singing range. Who knew an overbite could be so musically effective?

As the filmmakers make clear, the title of the film isn’t “Freddie Mercury.” Fans may well quibble over this film’s sanitized rendition of Mercury’s voracious appetite for sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. However, the movie displays the band’s unorthodox musical methods and interpersonal conflicts toward creating anthemic songs that you’ll be humming in your sleep for days if not weeks after seeing it.  

Freddie Mercury

Actor Gwilym Lee is unrecognizable in his portrayal of Queen’s guitarist Brian May. You can’t help but get a charge out of Lee’s spot-on portrayal of Queen’s charismatic guitarist. Mike Myers turns in an equally impressive act of disguise as Ray Foster, an EMI record label executive (a composite character of several EMI geniuses) who screwed up what would have been a lucrative deal with Queen had he endorsed their experimental approach to songwriting that birthed the film’s title track.

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Dramatic liberties are taken. Pet peeves will be had. I wish they had used the [actual] clip of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie singing their amazing “Under Pressure” duet. Would it have been too much of a cheat to let the audience revel in that dynamic musical moment in time? It certainly could have provided some insight into why Mercury abandoned his bandmates.

Enough splitting hairs, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a fun ride that will put a lump in your throat, a tear in your eye, and more than one terrific song in your heart. Go with it.  

Rated PG-13. 134 mins. (A) 

Five Stars

September 25, 2018

COLETTE

Colette (1)Try though it does to tell the tale of French fin de siècle novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette’s troubled marital journey, Wash Westmoreland’s brief biopic suffers from a clunky narrative form that never allows its characters to exist beyond two-dimensional qualities. In life, Colette was a novelist, actress, journalist and bi-sexual woman; in this film she is reduced to playing martyr/victim of a greedy man.

A by-committee screenplay (by three writers) is to blame. Two screenwriters can work exquisitely together because they each have to stand up for their beliefs, but must also be able to compromise responsibly. With three writers, two are always going to gang up on one; it’s not a healthy environment for creativity.

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It is frustrating to watch Kiera Knightley struggle with a role to which she seems so well-suited. More irritating is Dominic West’s weakly overbearing portrayal of Colette’s roustabout author husband Willy. West gets caught “acting” on more than one occasion, perhaps because his character’s motivations are so muddy. It would be a tall order for any actor to elevate such dramatically flat source material.

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“Colette” fails even as a generic period drama because it doesn’t dare show what truly drives its characters’ carnal passions. Willy is a selfish horndog, Colette is a gifted author with lesbian leanings. Colette’s would-be girlfriend has the charisma of a piece of wood. There you have it, a movie that was doomed before the first day of filming began. Tragic.

Rated R. 111 minutes. (C) Two Stars

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September 23, 2017

BATTLE OF THE SEXES

Colesmithey.comIt’s a given that Emma Stone would seamlessly slip inside Billy Jean King’s skin. It’s equally predictable that Steve Carell would embody aging tennis star and gambling addict Bobby Riggs with a portrayal that walks a fine line between a comic and tragic figure. But what impresses most about co-directors’ Jonathan Dayton’s and Valerie Faris’s equality-focused time capsule is how Andrea Riseborough’s lesbian hairdresser Marilyn Barnett encompasses emotional, political, and social issues being put through a cartoon media blender regarding a tennis match in 1973.

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“Battle of the Sexes” is a rebellious movie set during the confusion of the Watergate conspiracy that witnessed President Richard Nixon's resignation from office a year after Billy Jean King played Bobby Riggs. Upset by the much higher pay awarded to male tennis players over their female counterparts by the USLTA (under Jack Kramer – Bill Pullman), Billy Jean King and her business partner Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman) break with the USLTA to start their own women’s tennis tournament. Ironically, it’s a tobacco company that takes on sponsoring the Virginia Slims Womens’ Tennis Tournament.

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Andrea Riseborough is this film’s secret weapon. The romantic chemistry between Stone and Riseborough give the audience something to root for other than an exploitation tennis match promoted by three-time Wimbledon champion who could teach boxing promoter Don King a thing or two.

The tennis match scenes are well-crafted even if the movie doesn’t end on the strongest note. Pamela Martin’s editing is this film’s biggest stumbling block. The movie could lose 15 minutes and achieve a greater effect. Goofy secondary plot elements, such as Fred Armisen as a vitamin guru, go nowhere. There is a better movie hiding inside the one you see.

Rated PG-13. 121 mins. (B) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)

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