Bohemian Rhapsody Review

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Luke Parker

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Rating:
3.5
On November 2, 2018
Last modified:November 2, 2018

Summary:

Bohemian Rhapsody may not totally rock you, but Rami Malek channels the thrilling, show-stopping charisma of the late Queen super singer, ensuring this inappropriately timid biopic is as entertaining as it can possibly be.

Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t let Freddie Mercury actually perform until the very end. Before then (“then” being an epic, exhilarating, almost step-by-step reenactment of Queen’s show-stopping set at Live Aid), there are glimpses of performances that place lead actor Rami Malek center stage, but music’s greatest frontman deserves more than mere glimpses and simple montages that pull the plug on “Killer Queen,” “Fat Bottom Girls,” and “Another One Bites the Dust” far too quickly. I’ll admit that there was a certain pep in my step walking out of Bohemian Rhapsody, but that’s what happens when “Don’t Stop Me Now” plays as the credits rock and roll.

Starting and ending with the triumphant Live Aid concert, Rhapsody is much more the story of Queen than it is of its headliner.  Beginning in 1970 with a flamboyant and teeth-riddled Freddie meeting up with the band that his charisma would soon turn into Queen, the film hits the basic checkpoints along a 15-year-long musical highway. Freddie went on to live for six more years after Live Aid – six years that were very important to his relationships with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and John Reid (Aidan Gillen), both of which are hardly given enough attention here – but the film is content with reducing them to a brief summary before its rockin’ credits.

What plagues this movie most is surprisingly not found in its many behind-the-scenes scandals though (such as director Bryan Singer’s sudden firing very late into production), but in the simple fact that there’s not much else other than the music worth tapping your foot to. With a PG-13 rating, Rhapsody tip toes around the self-destructing lifestyle of its subject and chooses to focus on the group’s career instead.

The problem is that while the story of Freddie Mercury’s rise and fall is fascinating and moving, the story of Queen’s fame is not; screenwriter Anthony McCarten (who wrote other British-based biopics Darkest Hour and The Theory of Everything) struggles to integrate drama into Queen’s rise to glory, which smoothly progresses from college gigs to the top of the charts in a matter of scenes. Mercury’s is the much better tale, even while the film proves hesitant to tell it; this is McCarten’s laziest effort.

The involvement of guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor (portrayed by Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy in the movie), as both consultants and producers, has an obvious impact on the film’s overlaying gentleness. At many points, Bohemian Rhapsody feels more like an obituary than a biography, disappointingly dealing in half-truths rather than providing context to a man who was famously private. There’s a scene during a party at Freddie’s house where the members of the band attend and are visibly uncomfortable with Mercury’s outstanding gayness. The filmmakers seem just as uncomfortable with the material; their approach (or lack thereof) in addressing homosexuality in the 1970s makes me question the decisions that go into telling a noticeably incomplete story.

Fortunately, Malek delivers one of those rare performances that can still be appreciated in light of the muck surrounding it. This one’s not only worth appreciation, it’s worth reverence as it truly is one of the best of the year. While Bohemian Rhapsody mistakenly proposes a balance between him and the other members of Queen when there was clearly no such thing even in real life, the final Live Aid concert flourishes because it finally unleashes its star. At this time, the presence of May, Taylor, and bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) are reduced to reactions as Mercury lives through his beautifully inimitable persona for the last time. It’s his show, just as it should be.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review
Good

Bohemian Rhapsody may not totally rock you, but Rami Malek channels the thrilling, show-stopping charisma of the late Queen super singer, ensuring this inappropriately timid biopic is as entertaining as it can possibly be.

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