Finally saw and gotta agree with critics
In the Oscar lead up, there seemed to be a lot of articles pointing out the differences in opinion between the film reviewers and the movie going public. Over on IMDB, user reviews are packed with 10/10s.
I gotta say the critics were right about this... it's an entertaining enough movie. But Best Picture calibre? Best actor? I don't see it.
i. The bad wig and the bad teeth.
Man, were those distracting! Mercury had an overbite across his top teeth. Malek's prosthetic was more like beaver teeth and sometimes they distorted his jaw to the point where he looked deformed. Plus he had this habit of working his lips around them like he couldn't get comfortable with them. That just overemphasized how goofy they looked.
ii. The CGI here and there was distracting. It's mostly the mismatched lighting that gives it away. How can this not be done right in this day and age? The Live Aid swooping aerial shots looked bad... if they can't nail the CGI, directors should look to other techniques to get the scene across.
There was another scene... Mercury looking out a window to a city below.
iii. Malek just didn't convey the physical presence of Mercury. Google tells me he was only marginally shorter than Mercury so it may have had more to do with his sleight build. He had the stage moves down, but he didn't nail Mercury's sense of self-aware and mischievous theatricality.
A couple of monologues were well done, but Malek had one expression for every situation. (Maybe it was the teeth?) In recorded interviews, Mercury was a pretty animated speaker.
iv. I can't comment on the veracity of the story since I only know the broad strokes. But, within the movie, Mercury is a blank. Scenes like how he connects with his future bandmates and how he and Prenter become involved are presented quickly, like a checklist had to be completed. The Wikipedia article on Mercury is more interesting and compelling to read than anything presented in the movie.
The two pluses though: The fact that it accurately revealed that all the band members were important to the writing and production of the music, not just their front man.
The fun bit with Mike Myers.
v. Critics were put off by the way that Mercury's homosexuality was toned down with a couple of obligatory scenes that lightly touched on it. Can't say I noticed that... I thought it did an okay job of displaying it overall, but it does seem to come out of nowhere partway through the movie. The movie also never really explains why he and Jim Hutton became so close. That whole relationship was reduced to two scenes.
I suspect that it was the Live Aid performance scenes that overwhelmed film goers causing them to overlook the flaws of the previous two hours and give this movie glowing reviews.