'Bohemian Rhapsody' Review
November 12, 2018
Making a biopic about Freddie Mercury and Queen is a truly difficult task for anyone to accomplish. Trying to condense the life of the greatest lead singer of all time into a feature-length film is next to impossible. Attempting this feat is Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which unsurprisingly isn’t able to do justice to its subject matter. Still, the film makes up for what it lacks by containing great musical performances and a mesmerizing performance by Rami Malek as Freddie.
Singer has never been good with emotions throughout his career and that clearly shows here. He desperately struggles to deal with the more human scenes and the difficult relationships Freddie had with many of his closest friends and family. Most scenes feel hokey as they try every shameless tactic to get the audience to care.
The film also uses a straightforward method of telling the story. The plot basically boils down to a glorified Wikipedia article that tracks the history of the band from start to finish. By the end, everything that is learned feels like surface details that could easily have been explored more.
Singer may not be an emotional filmmaker, but what he does have going for him is his ability to be a showman. The many different concert scenes are a treat to watch as they play back some of the band’s greatest hits. Eventually, it all culminates in the famous Live Aid performance that blows away all expectations. The film beat for beat recreates the historic moment and makes you feel like part of the electric crowd.
Penned by Anthony McCarten, the script for Bohemian fails quite badly at various points. The most apparent problem is the truly atrocious dialogue that ruins many moments that are supposed to be heartfelt. Any scene with Mary and Freddie immediately becomes a sappy mess and dashes away any hope of connection to the characters and their relationship.
It can also be said that the script fails to defend the film’s 134-minute runtime as it never dives deep enough into Mercury’s troubled life. Background details are given about his upbringing and the strained relationship he had with his parents. However, these elements are treated with minor importance and don’t make an impact on Freddie as a character.
On a brief note, there is a small subplot with Mike Myers cameoing as a record producer who objects to the band’s unconventional ways. Myers comes off as a cartoon and the whole storyline reeked of desperation to get a slight laugh out of the meta-joke.
Lastly, Freddie’s sexuality is briefly touched on and with very little detail that it never truly feels that important even though it became a defining part of his image by the end of his career. The script never gives an explanation for why and how Freddie is gay, just the fact that he is. His sexuality becomes the main storyline by the end of the film, but by then it’s too little too late.
Freddie Mercury always seemed like the type of person who would be impossible to properly portray on screen. Rami Malek defies that logic and delivers a pitch-perfect performance. Apart from the singing voice, Malek recreates the mannerisms and overall presence of Mercury down to the letter. He brings a kind of contagious energy that lights up the screen every time he grabs the mic, giving us a sense of what it might have been like to be in front of Mercury as he performed.
The rest of the cast do an alright job, but really none of them matter compared to Malek. Lucy Boynton is pretty good as Mary Austin, Freddie’s wife at one point and lifelong friend. Boynton does what she can with the terrible dialogue and tries to salvage each scene she shares with Malek.
Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello play the rest of the band. Each of them is average and just kind of floats around in the background as Freddie takes center stage.
Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t a good film when put together as it fails to be a serviceable biopic about the band and its larger-than-life lead singer. However, the film is still a very fun time that delivers when it comes to musical thrills and will have you banging your head and listening to Queen for weeks after.