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Bohemian Rhapsody – Movie Review

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Bohemian Rhapsody – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Queen is one of the most important bands in British music history and a biopic chronicling their rise was inevitable, although the focus would obviously be on Freddie Mercury. While Bohemian Rhapsody picks up during the writing and performing of their catalogue, there isn’t too much insight into who the band was when not on stage. The film makes occasional attempts to dive into Mercury’s sexuality, but otherwise prefers to use the familiar musician biopic template through most of the runtime. One could call it a passable tribute to Queen and the singer that propelled it to success, but as an actual depiction of their life, Bohemian Rhapsody is disappointingly ordinary.

The best section of this movie is when Mercury sits down to compose the titular song. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of the greatest songs ever written and it is entertaining to see the band put the pieces together. The movie depicts the creative process as grueling, but ultimately rewarding for the performers. It would have been nice to hear the entire song performed, uninterrupted, but time is obviously of the essence. Director Bryan Singer’s most inspired moment is when he has the actors recreate the famous opening of the music video, with unimpressed critics’ quotes playing over it. A lot of the best moments in Bohemian Rhapsody involve recreations, including the famous Live Aid concert.

It’s when the film tries to portray their personal life that it starts to feel rather routine. Rami Malek does manage to capture Freddie Mercury’s physicality and digs into the role with the proper amount of showmanship. He has clearly studied his concert performances and music videos to get his mannerisms down. The actors playing the other members of Queen also succeed in inhabiting the roles. Meanwhile, Mike Myers’s casting leads to some of the cheekier lines in the movie when he dismisses “Bohemian Rhapsody”, resulting in an unsubtle Wayne’s World reference. There are a lot of moments in Bohemian Rhapsody when the movie winks to the audience.

In terms of Freddie Mercury’s characterization, someone unfamiliar with him and his work could walk into the movie and only come away with the knowledge that he was bisexual, liked cats and died of AIDS. The rest of Queen is similarly given little in the way of proper development. Bohemian Rhapsody follows the guidelines of the musician biopic extremely closely. There is the disapproving parent, the manager with profit on his mind, the band break-up and the struggling with addiction. Some of these are slightly exaggerated, too, purely to create some further drama. It gives the film as a whole an artificial feel. Freddie Mercury was a legitimately fascinating person and the movie seems more intent on jumping from one point in his life to the next with occasional musical numbers in between.

As shepherded by the remaining members of Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody has certainly been made with a lot of respect for Freddie Mercury and what he brought to modern music. It is great to see the band put together some of their iconic hits, with an emphasis on “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “We Will Rock You” and “Another One Bites the Dust”, but when showing Mercury at home and his romantic relationships, the movie falls short. Bryan Singer and credited screenwriter Anthony McCarten have simplified his life too much. There’s a scene where Mercury is mocking the rest of Queen and when he gets to guitarist John Deacon, he draws a blank. That’s an appropriate reaction, considering how little we truly learn about the actual people behind this iconic band.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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