I try never to read reviews of films I haven’t seen yet, but word of mouth filtered through that “Bohemian Rhapsody” was a disappointment. Personally, I found it quite enjoyable, which just goes to show that no one opinion ever defines any work of art. It follows the classic “Origin of an Icon” formula (Freddy Mercury of the seminal second-half-of-the-20th-century rock group Queen), from unknown oddball through years of success and overindulgence to falling-star status, to brief comeback, to fading from importance. The story itself serves as the bones that support the two outstanding elements that make the film so mesmerizing: the dazzling, creative, ground-breaking music of Queen and Rami Malek, the brilliant star of TV’s “Mr. Robot,” as Mercury. It is said he prepared for the role by moving to London and completely immersing himself in learning the accent, the piano, studying Mercury’s moves from old videos and, basically, becoming the reincarnation of the rock legend. Bottom line: I couldn’t take my eyes off him, there was not a false note to the performance, and the film afforded this reviewer enormous pleasure in bringing back so many familiar songs from her youth. If Mercury’s homosexuality doesn’t receive a lot of attention (one of the complaints), so what? One doesn’t get the sense anyone was burying the information, only that it didn’t really have anything to do with the group’s output and success. The direction is excellent, camera work by Newton Thomas Sigel exemplary, the supporting cast is all fine and the final 21 minutes—a perfect re-creation of Queen’s appearance the 1985 Live Aid concert, is a stunning tour-de-force for all involved.
Now streaming on Amazon, this is a deliciously mysterious 10 half-hour episodic drama starring the ever-charismatic Julia Roberts as an enthusiastic professional working with veterans suffering from PTSD at a government (or is it?) facility named Homecoming. The always first-rate Bobby Cannavale is her immediate superior, although not on the premises—their series of phone calls often done using split screen technology give rise to the sense of paranoia we can’t get away from. Each episode seems to answer a previous puzzle) but always sets up a new one as we go back and forth in time, present day at Homecoming and 10 years down the line when Roberts’ now-deeply depressed character seems to have blocked out the entire experience. Why? What trauma caused this? What in the world is going on? The final episode ties everything together, even as—to me, at least—one of the character arcs (Cannavale’s) doesn’t follow the psychology that has been set up. Created by Sam Ismail (“Mr. Robot”), the excellent supporting cast includes Stephan James, Dermot Mulroney, Cissy Spacek and Shea Whigham.
A must-watch ratings smash in England early this year, it’s easy to see why “Bodyguard” captured an entire country’s slavish interest. Netflix has it now and this country is all the better for it. Starring “Game of Thrones” alumnus Richard Madden, the show is not just a highly tense police procedural but also completely unpredictable tale of terrorists, a marriage in trouble, government misdeeds, people not being what they seem and—most of all—a flawed and troubled hero we cannot depend on to enlighten us at any step of the way. Halfway through the six episodes, the plot takes a 180-degree turn and we’re in a new world that’s just as confusing as the old one. But, we’re glued to our seats and the final episode is, well, breathtaking in its scope and tension. “Bodyguard” is perfect for binge-watching on a rainy Sunday. Or a sunny one.