It is not rare to associate films and music as a partnership. They complement each other in ways far more complicated than we appreciate. The current influx of musical biopic films on the surface seems good, but I find myself asking the question, why?
Now this is not to be confused with musicals (A celebration of stage entering the screen) No, this is simply films that express a certain genre or band. If you’re wondering when music biopics started, you can look towards bands like the Beatles with A Hard Days Night (1964) although a British production, it arguably inspired Hollywood to make further mainstream productions such as Gimme Shelter (1970) a Rolling Stones documentary. In more later years, The Blues Brothers (1980) and The Commitments (1994) have all played a part in bringing the music industry to the screen. These productions and more were largely spread apart in different eras, so what has made 2018/2019 the year of biopics?
In 2010 it was announced that plans for a Queen biopic was in the works with Brian May and Rodger Taylor overlooking it. After a few turbulent years, it finally entered production in 2017, Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) had a production budget of $52 million dollars, but has taken a massive $903,655,259 (Box Office Mojo) in box office sales, not to mention the DVD distribution. Whether you like it or not, Bohemian Rhapsody has been successful, is this down to the film or the power of the music? The film didn’t have massive names in it, so advertising the stars wasn’t a publicity trait for its marketing. However, what the film did have was the power of history. The music of Queen is responsible for shaping generations of people, and representing communities, with a sense of liberation often forwarded by frontman Freddie Mercury. That is not to suggest that the cast of Bohemian Rhapsody weren’t amazing, because they simply were. In this case, the music is what employed people to watch the film in its initial release, then when the reviews came out, the focus of the film shifted into what people realised was a brilliant cast. My only problem with the film is the Director, then again lots of people share this unfortunate element of the film.
The next of the biopics to come into the spotlight was the recent Rocketman (2019). After premièring at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival (see my Cannes post) the film alerted us to the fact that it is vastly different to its comparison in mainstream media, Bohemian Rhapsody. Rocketman, although a biopic has a musical element to it, with the fast-paced choreographed dance routines and the electrifying music, all sang by Taron Egerton (Elton John). The success of Rocketman is yet to come, while the reviewers are loving it, myself included, the real test of time will be awards season. I’d like to see it do well here, after all Rami Malek walked away with an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Dexter Fletcher also shines bright as an eccentric director, bringing producer Elton Johns life to the screen in an honest way. Again, I’m inclined to agree that Rocketman was a product of the music over the money of the film. Elton John has said in interviews, that he wanted to tell the story, so it could be done in the right way. This almost mimics the words of Brian May and Rodger Taylor, and can you really blame them? They’ve been one step ahead of the game, if they didn’t do it, someone else would have.
So, now we are getting closer to another batch of music inspired films. Yesterday (2019) is from today, in cinemas. A surprisingly original film, it forms a world where only one person has heard of the Beatles, taking the music and making it ‘their’ own, much to the worlds shock at how amazing this person is to create all these songs, so quickly. With newcomer, Himesh Patel and Lily James, and director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curtis, I’m excited to see this portrayal of music, that isn’t a biopic. I also can’t really understand why this hasn’t been done before? It’s such a simple plot, with a complicated image. The film will do well because the marketing for it started fifty years ago when the Beatles first popped onto our screens. Everyone knows the music of the Beatles, and by the looks of it, Yesterday exploits that.
Although undoubtedly not the last music inspired film of the year, on the 16th of August New Line Cinemas will realise Blinded by the Light (2019). Directed by Guirder Chadha, it is based on the ‘power’ of Bruce Springsteen’s music, set in Luton in 1987. This honestly looks really sweet from the trailer, there’s a clear social divide in the film, but like wise to Guirder Chadha’s other films such as Bend it like Beckham (2002) issues are often sorted out using a direct message to be kinder and more understanding of different cultures. Blinded by the Light has a lot of newcomers to the screen, leading man Viveik Kalra plays schoolboy Javed discovering ‘Born to Run’ for the first time. I’m actually pretty excited to see this film, it has already played at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival to raving reviews so it’s going to be exciting to see its initial public realise.