BPM (Beats Per Minute) Movie Review
BPM (Beats Per Minute) is interesting until it isn’t, trading its intense portrayal of activism for a we’ve-seen-it-many-times-before third act. The movie, about AIDS rights activists in the early 90’s who debate and execute tactics to bring awareness to their cause, has a lot going for it until it abandons what made it unique in the first place and opts to focus on one character slowly dying for what seems like an hour.
That might sound insensitive, as the foreign language contender is based on true events (I think), but where the movie thrives is its fixation on the internal arguments and semi-democratic process that drove the ACT UP movement (both director Robin Campillo and screenwriter Philippe Mangeot were involved in that group). While other mainstream movies have looked at activism tied to homosexuality and AIDS (most notably, Milk), none that I recall have had subject matter quite like BPM.
Admittedly, I wouldn’t say even in its best moments the movie is amazing. Listening to people shout and snap their fingers at each other for an hour, in a language I don’t understand, stuck reading their words instead, BPM becomes a little tedious even before it treads into stereotypical territory. For whatever reason, it was hard to engage with the characters and while their cause is valiant, watching them debate how best to go about it gets tiring after a while.
Still, it’s well done and well acted.
But when BPM shifts away from being an activism film to a disease film, its focus from the dynamics of a movement to the suffering of one individual, it becomes just another movie about AIDS or cancer or some other crippling disease. This is harsh, likely unpopular, but it’s been done many times in other movies, with characters I felt more strongly about.
BPM (Beats Per Minute) has the components, but in the end it’s a movie about an important thing that is also well done… that isn’t necessarily worth watching.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.