Directed By: Bryan Singer, Dexter Fletcher.
Review: Bohemian Rhapsody is a biographical drama that tells the story of the British rock band Queen and its vocalist Freddie Mercury in particular. Or at least, it tries to make you think it does. It has a slick production aesthetic, and the casting directors seem to have gotten it right.
Unfortunately, that’s where the good things end. As biographies go, this one isn’t very nuanced, or accurate either. Watching it feels like reading the Wikipedia page on Mercury. The film does not bother to explore the lives of the other band members either, and the insultingly reductive take on the complex relationship between him and Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) is disappointing. Moreover, Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) is depicted as a black and white evil character, lacking any shade of grey.
Some of the pivotal plot points like Freddie meeting the Bryan (Gwilym Lee) and Roger (Ben Hardy) for the first time at the end of a show, breaking up Queen to focus on his solo career, Prenter’s TV interview before the Live Aid concert or Mercury getting diagnosed with AIDS before the show, well, actually didn’t happen. The recreation of the 1985 gig wasn’t too bad, but the CGI crowds did hurt it a bit. The part where no one is donating until Queen takes to the stage in a concert where Elton John and Paul McCartney were playing seems highly unbelievable though and appear to be taken straight out of any Bollywood movie’s playbook. I understand the business aspect of it – formulaic and superficial musical biographies do work commercially. In particular, the one with disapproving parents, rising to glory, falling and then rising again.
However, the most glaringly obvious blunder that the directors seem to have made is taking a regressive approach in sanitising much of Mercury’s sexuality and hedonistic experiences and in doing so, they have done a great disservice to the legend.
The saving graces for Bohemian Rhapsody, in no surprise to everyone, are the timeless Queen songs and the stories behind their conception. Rami Malek’s act evokes mixed feelings at best. But despite the idiotic prosthetic teeth and wooden performance, the energy and the physicality Rami Malek brings to the on-stage persona of Freddie Mercury is commendable. Ultimately that isn’t enough to save this train wreck of a movie.
Rating: My rating is 2/5.
Who should watch this: Die hard Queen fans for sure. The Blu-ray is also worth checking out as it contains the entire Live Aid concert as a featurette. But audiences craving better musical dramas and biographies should instead watch Walk The Line (2005), Sid and Nancy (1986), I’m Not There (2007), Ray (2004), Shine (1996) or Almost Famous (2000).