Title: Bohemian Rhapsody
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Bryan Singer
Release Format: Theatrical
The Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, has faced an uphill battle for many years. Since 2009, the film has undergone numerous changes and had multiple discussions on what kind of movie it would be. Some directors and actors wanted the film to focus more on late frontman Freddie Mercury and really delve into the grit of his personal and sexual life, while others (the remaining members of Queen included) wanted it to be a film that more celebrated the band and their success, and especially the life of Mercury.
After Sacha Baron Cohen opted out of playing Mercury because of debate over making the film more of an R-rated spectacle, actor Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) stepped in to fill the shoes of Mercury. While director Bryan Singer seemingly abandoned the film halfway through filming, he was swiftly replaced by Dexter Fletcher (who funnily enough left the project years ago over disputes) to wrap up the film.
This all sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, but as it turns out, while it is not exactly the deep dive into Mercury’s life that some were expecting, Bohemian Rhapsody manages to come together as an enjoyable film in its own right, featuring funny and heartfelt performances from its ensemble cast.
As far as the overall journey from the creation of Queen to the tragic death of its frontman, Mercury, the movie moves through these events at a brisk pace, especially in the beginning. In what seems like the first thirty minutes of a two-and-a-half-hour runtime, Mercury meets with the band, performs with the band, and the band hits the big time. It all moves pretty swiftly and glosses over many interactions the band could have had with each other, but at the same time, the swiftness ensures no one in the audience is ever bored. To its credit, the movie does slow down considerably to give the audience insight into Mercury’s marriage with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and his subsequent relationship with his partner Paul Prenter (Allen Leech). Prenter is the closest Bohemian Rhapsody gets to an outright villain, but he is upstaged consistently by Malek, who delivers his lines with grace and subtlety. Again, while the script appears to only give viewers a surface-level look at the life of these musicians, the dialogue is tight and quite often hilarious, with Malek giving a lot of the film’s great zingers and one-liners.
Of course, as many could tell from the film’s trailers, Rami Malek is fantastic as Freddie Mercury and really takes to the task of embodying everything about Queen’s incredible performer. While Malek’s work with the quieter moments of Mercury’s life cannot be understated, it is on the stage that you see Malek truly shine. Malek is magnetic and exhilarating onstage, delivering such an electric and convincing performance that there were occasional moments where I forgot I was watching a biopic.
The film’s absolute greatest scene is undoubtedly Queen’s legendary performance at Live Aid, where they were given twenty minutes to enrapture the audience with Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer to Fall, and We Are the Champions. For the most part, this entire twenty-minute segment is replicated in the film and features every iconic moment from that performance, from Mercury’s “Ay-Oh” chant to him grabbing the cameraman so that he could put his face right up to the camera. It is an electrifying scene, and whether you’re a hardcore or casual fan of Queen, you will be moved not just by the performance, but by what that moment meant to the band and especially Freddie Mercury. The camera pans to multiple people in the 100,000-spectator crowd, and I could see more than one person with tears in their eyes. Yes, they are actors required to show emotion, but these people looked like they were so enamored with the performance by Malek and the other actors, it was like they were watching the real thing come alive. No matter what anyone wanted from this Queen biopic, seeing that reaction is a powerful and emotional thing to witness.
However, in the end, if you come to Bohemian Rhapsody for a true and historically accurate look at Queen and Mercury’s personal life, you will be disappointed. The film tries its hardest to paint Mercury and its band in the best light possible and to really focus on the band’s legacy and key moments that led to the creation of everyone’s favorite songs. Does the film have anything really new to say? No. Is, for lack of a better term, Queen’s “Disney-fying” of their honest history? No, not exactly, but in a time of year when audiences are hit with depressing, and slow true stories for the Oscars to lap up, it’s nice to get a biopic that really just tries to celebrate a band and a man that gave us some of music’s most timeless melodies.
Verdict: Bohemian Rhapsody may come off as by-the-numbers, and a little shallow, especially when it comes into diving into the grit of Mercury’s personal and sexual life. However, as a film that tries to be an entertaining celebration through the history of one of music’s most unique and cherished bands, it accomplishes that feat and then some. Rami Malek delivers a truly exceptional performance as Freddie Mercury, one that is well-researched and respectful to the late frontman. If you’re looking to rock out and witness killer (queen) performances, look no further than Bohemian Rhapsody.
- Entertaining, light-hearted for the most part
- Rami Malek is electrifying as Freddie Mercury
- The rest of the cast (particularly the other members of Queen) are great
- The script is tight and humorous
- The film is surface-level in areas and could have delved a little deeper where it came to Mercury's personal life
- One too many montages