Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Ben Hardy, Mike Myers, Gwilym Lee, and Joseph Mazzello
Written by: Anthony McCarten
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 2hr, 14 minutes
Most musical biopics follow the same general material. Whether they were made 40 years or five years ago, for TV or movie audiences, they captivate our attention because we are interested in the musicians in question and not necessarily because they’re great pieces of cinema.
Bohemian Rhapsody follows the legendary band, Queen, with a more specific emphasis on Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) and the other band members being more like side characters. The film opens on college student Freddie (or Farrokh, as he was known at the time) who works at the airport and hits London’s music spots at night, and very quickly propels us through his meeting Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and falling in with his future bandmates.
From there, Bohemian Rhapsody tries to squeeze in as many different plot points as possible while choosing to linger only on certain moments dealing with Freddie’s love life and sexuality, tense and uplifting band/management moments, identity struggles, and all the usual formula one would expect from a musical biopic. However, even with the predictability of the plot devices (which is noticeable even if you know nothing about Queen), the dialogue is snappy and will deliver a few “laugh out loud” moments. The “soundtrack” of Queen hits being used to help tell the story is enjoyable and effective. Also, the chemistry between the other band members (played by Gwilym Lee, Brian Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello) is so natural and appealing that it’s a shame they don’t have more screen time.
None of these positives, however, compare to the performance of Rami Malek, who becomes his subject on screen in front of us and even evolves with him. As Freddie becomes more comfortable with who he is, Malek’s onscreen presence becomes even stronger. However accurate or inaccurate the actual events of the story, Malek’s performance is a love letter to Freddie Mercury, played with honesty, vulnerability, and incredible charisma and strength. By the last 20 minutes of the film, you’ll have goosebumps and want to cheer.
To put all the pieces together and sum up- you’ll enjoy Bohemian Rhapsody if you go in knowing full well that you’ll never see absolutely everything you want to see. It’s just impossible. For a band that is so iconic (and with each member having private lives), a piece of cinema that encapsulates every last accuracy and detail would be six hours long. If you look at the film as more of a collection of moments and feelings with some great performances, you’ll get a lot more out of it. Indeed, it’s one of Bryan Singer’s better films, even though he was booted off the project as production was wrapping. That said, I wouldn’t say the end product suffered at all from the changing of creative hands in post-production, as tends to happen in these circumstances.
Bohemian Rhapsody is by no means a movie masterpiece. However, it will leave its mark on your heart where you’ll feel a beaming happiness and a tearful sadness. You’ll leave the theatre singing and understand why Freddie Mercury and Queen will truly live forever. #AFJ4LIFE