It may seem like a strange decision to review two films at the same time, but it’s the comparisons between the two that are really striking. Both are films about larger than life characters from the music industry, bands that are of a legendary status, but the production and direction could not be further apart. It’s fair to say that The Dirt will not be receiving any nominations for the Oscar’s. While Bohemian Rhapsody is a glamorous affair covering the career of Freddie Mercury up until the Live Aid concert in 1985, The Dirt is much more gritty and in your face.
The production quality on Bohemian Rhapsody works well for the story it tells, only really failing in that it presents a much more romanticised view of Freddy Mercury’s life than strictly factual. It paints the story as that of an underdog, somehow rising above all expectations to triumph. The final act at Wembley Stadium is played straight to the heart, and much like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky II you find yourself cheering along with the crowds watching in the pubs and clubs of Britain in the film. It’s glorious triumph that brings tears to the eyes, especially given almost immediately before the show you see his heart-rending admission to his band mates that he has contracted the disease that will eventually go on to kill him less than a decade later. The attention to detail is astonishing, from the reproduction of Freddie’s teeth, to the placement of the Pepsi cups on the piano during the Live Aid concert, every piece is painstakingly researched. That’s not to say there aren’t continuity errors, but they are easy to overlook unless you know Queen’s music inside out. This is a Hollywood biopic of epic proportions, and a quite fitting tribute to one of rock’s greatest frontmen.
It’s also safe to say that the production quality on Bohemian Rhapsody just would not have worked on The Dirt. Mötley Crüe are often seen as the Jackass of bands, and The Dirt is directed in kind by Jackass producer Jeff Tremaine. Do not expect this story to take itself seriously. That’s not to say there aren’t serious moments, the deaths of Razzle and of Vince Neil’s daughter are played out to their full tragic consequences, but the majority of the film is played straight for laughs. It’s fitting that a band that was so over the top in real life is portrayed in an over the top movie. The film also makes it very clear that much of the story has been stylised for entertainment with factual accuracy sacrificed for laughs. While mostly cosmetic changes, such as costumes worn at the time, some are glaring, such as the firing of their manager at a Xmas party at Nikki Sixx’s house when in reality he was fired at a show in Moscow in 1989. For these reasons it should be seen strictly for what it is, a dramatisation of the life of the most notorious rock band in history. Grab a bag of crisps, a few beers, and relax.
Both films are great movies to watch, but for very different reasons. While one is a straight film with some moments of comedy, the other is a comedy with some moments of tragedy. In a way both films work and fail at the same time, Bohemian Rhapsody works as a straight biopic, but in some ways doesn’t delve deep enough. Freddie’s private life is skimmed over, the man who was his partner for many years missing from the film in favour of telling a more family friendly tale of his sexuality. In contrast The Dirt goes so over the top to be almost pornographic in its depiction of sex drugs and rock n roll. As a lifelong fan of the band it would have been nice if the same attention to detail had been lavished on the historical accuracy of some of the key events in the film, but then part of the fun in the film is just simply how over the top they were, both on and off stage. To get the most from either film you really need to be a fan, but if you want a feel-good movie then it’s Bohemian Rhapsody. If you want riotous over the top fun then it has to be The Dirt