Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic based on the legendary band, Queen.
This story picks up shortly before Freddy Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara of Parsi descent, joins guitarist/astrophysics scholar Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer/dental student Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) with a parking lot audition engagingly depicted with just the right amount of humor and irony; and continues to (somewhat) chronicle the group’s rise to fame – after John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) joins to play bass- their turbulent group dynamic.
The film provides insights and laughs (one provided by Mike Myers that sure to satisfy something deep inside) but is sadly mostly lite-fare when it comes to getting into the nitty-gritty life of the men who made up Queen.
It’s obvious from the start that the screenplay’s been heavily influenced by the remaining band members. Very little about their tour shenanigans and misdeeds get more than a sly mention on screen. But, the script is very free with diving into Mercury’s personal life and exploits overtly and through heavy inference. And, as the relationship between members becomes ever-more tumultuous, there’s a decidedly one-sided depiction of exactly how – and why – that relationship breaks down.
Despite its PG-13 rating, Bohemian Rhapsody does a fair job showing and implying Mercury’s private struggles. From the outset, his romantic relationship with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and his ill-suppressed desire for male companionship flow hand-in-hand with the main plot unraveling the band’s rise to fame.
It’s obvious the driving force behind this film is Freddy’s life and the overall impact he had on Queen; in public and in private. Sadly by neglecting the bigger picture and skewing the perspective, large portions of Bohemian Rhapsody end up severely lacking in depth and honesty.
If you don’t know anything about Freddy Mercury and/or Queen then Bohemian Rhapsody is just the thing to whet your appetite for more. But, if the iconic band and its legendary lead singer aren’t unknown entities, then Bohemian Rhapsody feels less like a big screen biopic and more like a censored highlight reel with a scrambled timeline.
Those in the know will spot the spit and shine with disappointment. The film’s directorial difficulties are obvious in the final cut. More truth can be gleaned from how Queen’s iconic catalog of songs is used to evoke emotion. Let’s just say, no one felt the need to be faithful to release dates which naturally blurs the passage of time. It’s difficult to line up true events with their on-screen depictions. You can almost see the gaps between important milestones as the film progresses. It all works to undercut the film’s authenticity; thining any emotional connection.
The moments and relationships Bohemian Rhapsody chooses to focus on are compelling but handled with a far-from-deft hand and it shows. But, otherwise solid performances from this cast, however, keep the story moving despite its obvious emotional fits and starts. Plus, it’s nothing short of genius to wrap this story up and close the action out with a recreation of the band’s unforgettable and mesmerizing performance at Live Aid in 1985. You’ll leave singing.
Rami Malek gives his portrayal of Mercury his all, and that pays big dividends as he oozes diva-level flash and flair strutting about with the staggering swagger that was Mercury’s near-impenetrable mask. So, despite being continually hindered by the film’s shallow script, Malek’s vibrant turn as this talented and deeply complicated man is absolutely worth seeing.
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