Bohemian Rhapsody is the long awaited musical biopic of Freddie Mercury and Queen. The fact that this film didn’t get made earlier is both shocking and understandable. The band and its lead singer have some of the most recognisable and celebrated songs, in not only Rock and Roll, but all modern music. Their story is so full of scandal and scrutiny, that making this film any earlier may have been considered too risky and fringe.
Director Bryan Singer (whose name still appears although he was cut from directorial duties significantly into filming), bring the story of the four English rockers to the screen with spunk and pace. It’s a typical and very much sanitized biopic. Instead of the love letter to one of the greatest rock bands, the film plays out like a glossy telemovie, with nothing really happening. The band becomes famous quickly, writes and produces the music with little to no effort and for the most part – don’t really struggle. It’s just too neat. There is a detour in the third act with Freddie and his success in America; however this is summed up with slow motion walks through BDSM clubs of the 80’s without really delving into Freddie’s tragic hubris and his break from the band. The film is even given a villain, which comes across just as odd as it sounds. Freddie’s confidant and ‘devil-on-the-shoulder’, Paul, is ridiculously given moments of sinister smirking – the character was just missing a moustache to twirl. Furthermore, the musical numbers fail to live up to the infectious pulse-pounding concert moments like in the recently released A Star Is Born.
A major issue with Bohemian Rhapsody, which NEEDS to be discussed, is that the depiction of Freddie’s campness and subsequent descent into the gay/queer lifestyle is somehow deliberately associated with his downfall. AIDS is seen as a consequence to his lifestyle, instead of an infectious disease that sadly ended Freddie’s life. This is where the film in a way attempts to separate Freddie’s artistry from his sexuality when in fact they are more connected then the film gives credit for. It’s in this that the film teeters on being accidentally homophobic.
The films strength and mainstay, much like Queen itself, is its front-man. Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) is truly superb in his portrayal of the peacocking diva. When taking on a role as big and larger-than-life like that of Freddie Mercury, an actor runs the risk of showcasing just an imitation or caricature. Thankfully and marvellously, Malek does no such thing. He gives a wonderfully thorough performance that is (tragically) wasted on this mediocre script. He struts and prances through the film with the bravado and campness of the singer himself – no easy feat. There are times one forgets that that isn’t Freddie Mercury onscreen.
Altogether, Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t an overly bad film, it’s interesting, light and lively. The problem is that the film is too much of a washed down and middle of the road Hollywood biopic, with a misplaced reverence. Queen and Freddie Mercury are some of the most revived performers in musical history and their artistic majesty just isn’t given the story it deserves. Malek’s performance and the soundtrack are the highlights, the latter being a testament to Queen’s genius, not the films. Queen were renowned for putting on a great show, but unfortunately this film will not rock you, but it also doesn’t bite the dust.
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