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Reel Time

Bohemian Rhapsody 

They sell their van to produce their first recording, eventually signing with EMI Records. When they release their fourth album, 1975’s A Night at the Opera, they leave EMI because the head of the company, Ray Foster (an unrecognizable Mike Myers), refuses to release the record with Freddie’s six-minute “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single. To Foster’s dismay, the song becomes a tremendous hit, and the band undertakes a world tour.

In 1970, Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek) works as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport in London. His family, of Indian-Parsi heritage, emigrated to the United Kingdom from Zanzibar. Farrokh goes to college, and though his father strongly disapproves, his real interest is popular music. One night, after a performance of the band Smile, the lead singer quits. When Farrokh approaches Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), suggesting that he could be the new lead singer, the bandmates tell him his protruding teeth will be an issue. Farrokh tells them his teeth have shaped his mouth to make him a better singer with a huge vocal range. They add a bassist, John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello), Farrokh legally changes his name to Freddie Mercury, and Queen is born.

Freddie has been keeping company with his girlfriend, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). They are close, but it becomes obvious that Freddie is gay when he has an affair with Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), who becomes his manager. Though Freddie and Mary part ways, they remain friends. Queen’s success grows, but Freddie’s relationship with Paul creates strain among the band’s members.

Mary shows up in 1985 to beg Freddie to take part in Bob Geldof’s Live Aid benefit concert at Wembley Stadium near London. They agree to participate in the concert, giving the performance of a lifetime.

Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the best rock dramas I have ever seen. Although writer Anthony McCarten and director Bryan Singer take some liberties with the story and compress the time line of events, Malek’s stunning, Oscar-nominated performance transcends any faults the audience might find in the film. Malek becomes Freddie Mercury with every bit of energy and heart he can give to the role of the famed singer. The performance at Wembley is recreated with sharp attention to detail and becomes fresh, vibrant, and relevant again.

Not yet rated, R • Pervasive violence, peril. 


Roma

Roma 

In a section of Mexico City called Colonia Roma, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) works as a maid for an upper-middle-class family. Cleo does laundry, helps the other maid, Adela (Nancy García García), and cleans up after the family dog. Although she goes placidly about her lowly work, the family genuinely cares for her. Dr. Antonio, the father, prepares to leave for Quebec for a medical conference. His wife, Sofía (Marina de Tavira), is clingy, but their four children get ready for school and say goodbye to their father.In a section of Mexico City called Colonia Roma, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) works as a maid for an upper-middle-class family. Cleo does laundry, helps the other maid, Adela (Nancy García García), and cleans up after the family dog. Although she goes placidly about her lowly work, the family genuinely cares for her.

Cleo and Adela, who both have boyfriends, like to go to the movies on their days off. One day, Cleo and Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) decide to skip the movie and rent a hotel room. A few weeks later, Cleo tells Fermin that she is pregnant. He excuses himself to go to the bathroom and never comes back. Cleo tracks him down, but he refuses to acknowledge that the baby is his.

Over New Year’s, Sofía takes the family to the hacienda of a family friend to celebrate. There they learn that conflicts over the land are brewing in the area. Teresa (Verónica García), Sofía’s mother, takes Cleo shopping for a crib as her due date draws near. Students gather in the street to protest the government. A paramilitary group shoots at the protesters. Two injured students hide in the store. A gunman points his weapon at Cleo, who goes into labor.

When the family, without Antonio, visits the beach, two of the children are in danger of drowning. Cleo, who cannot swim, rushes into the sea to save the children.

Roma, from writer/director Alfonso Cuarón, is a warm and loving memoir to Mexico City, where he grew up and was cared for by women who loved him and his siblings. Oscar nominee Aparicio gives her performance, as well as the entire film, an even deeper feeling of benevolence and authenticity in dark, changing times. This is Aparicio’s first film, and she is wonderful.

Not yet rated, R • Peril, some mature themes.


 

The Favourite

The Favourite 

Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is on the throne of Britain in 1708, and the country is at war with France. She whiles away her time tending to 17 rabbits that represent all her children who have died. Her friend and advisor, Sarah (Rachel Weisz), takes care of governance in the queen’s place. When Sarah’s cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone), arrives at court, looking for any kind of work, she slowly ingratiates herself with Sarah and then the queen. She usurps Sarah’s role as nurse, companion, and eventual lover to the queen. Sarah mistreats Abigail, who plots to have Sarah harmed and her reputation ruined while members of parliament fight over taxes to fund the war.

The Favourite was not my favorite film of the year, though the costumes are magnificent. Rather than a humorous film, I thought it a sad, tragic story of royalty and aristocrats fighting over status and playing at governing. That a woman could lose 17 babies should have elicited pity, but instead people used the queen until she finally, in demeaning ways, put them in their place. The three female leads form a brilliant, unlikable ensemble just the same. 

O, R • Strong sexual content, nudity, language.


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