Is this the real life or is this just fantasy, caught in a landslide, no escape from reality. Yes I opened this review with a lyric from Queen’s most famous song, sue me. Bohemian Rhapsody is actor Rami Malek’s love letter to the late, great Freddie Mercury. It’s too bad the movie doesn’t hold up to his amazing performance.
I love musical biographies, or any biopic about creative people. It really shows how hard and traumatic a life most of our greatest artists have. Whether you are a painter, author, or song writer, people put blood, sweat and tears into their art and it’s too bad most people can’t at the very least appreciate the effort and love that goes into that desperate need to entertain. But making a biopic is hard because everyone leads complex lives and what part of that life do you want to focus on?
Freddie Mercury’s life’s story is filled with triumphs, mistakes and his well-known tragic death from aids. On the one hand I did not want to see a movie that hammered on the fact that Mercury was a gay playboy and the end of his life, but I also didn’t expect Rhapsody to completely gloss over it as well.
Since this film was produced by Queen Founders Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) the story is more about Queen and Freddie Mercury’s place and influence on the band than his personal life. We go almost a full hour into the film before they even bring up the fact that Mercury was gay and even then it was done really subtle that if you didn’t know that fact prior to seeing the movie it would have flown over your head (at least these initial encounters). It was all done off camera and hinted at.
I understand the producers and director Bryan Singer wanted to stay focused on the music of Queen and the band itself but most people are here to see a biopic on Mercury and he had a messy life, glossing over that for the first half of the movie felt like it shortchanged that and when they start to show it, it feels shoved in and resolved rather quickly as his life and Aids diagnosis becomes a back drop to Queen’s triumphant Live Aid performance but Mercury wasn’t diagnosed with the deadly disease until a few years later.
After watching A Star Is Born the one thing I really expected was for the musical sequences to blow me away, I mean it’s Queen, the Kings of big, bombastic Anthems but a lot of the musical sequences felt smaller. Now I don’t know if this is because I saw it in a smaller theater but it wasn’t as impactful seeing A Star Is Born felt.
All the performances in this movie are solid but lack the but Malek is the clear standout. He channel’s Mercury’s spirit in the way he moves and talks. The only thing that was a tad annoying is the emphasis on Mercury’s teeth and bone structure seemed really fake. Especially since Singer was so in love with the makeup job that almost every time we see Mercury the camera kind of lingers on it.
While the movie is all about Mercury, yes, I just contradicted everything I said earlier about the film being more about Queen than Mercury, but here’s what I mean. Mercury has such an overpowering presence that while the film isn’t strictly about Mercury and tries to be about the music and band he still sucks the air out of the room and Malik does an amazing job oozing Mercury’s strut and rock star persona. Other stand out performances include Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin, Mercury’s former wife and lifelong friend and Allen Leech as Mercury’s conniving and skeevy friend Paul Pretner.
I expected to really love Bohemian Rhapsody but I came away thinking, “this could have been so much more,” but I don’t quite know how because like I said I really didn’t want a movie that was solely focused on Mercury’s tragedies, but I wanted a lot more out of the musical numbers. It’s worth seeing for Malek and the ending Live Aid sequence.
Final Grade B-