Film Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Bryan Singer’s (and Dexter Fletcher’s) Queen biopic is a thoroughly entertaining ride, although it isn’t perfect.

This film is very much a nostalgia trip, and a celebration of Queen. The film does gloss over the bad times and very much focuses on their (many) successes, and sometimes doesn’t give a fair look at their more turbulent moments. As far as tributes go, this is a strong one, and if you are a fan of Queen, you are probably going to adore this movie.

Although billed as a Queen biopic, this is very much the story of Freddie Mercury and he takes centre stage for a large portion of the lengthy 134 minute runtime. Rami Malek is perfectly cast and his performance is sensational in this film, it’s unsurprising that he got the blessing of Mercury’s family for his portrayal, and I would be shocked if he doesn’t get some sort of award nomination (or victory) for this. It’s hard to believe that Sacha Baron Cohen was originally going to play Mercury, and after watching this film I’m quite relieved that he didn’t, because I don’t think it would have worked half as well. By his own admission, Sacha Baron Cohen would have been “very outrageous in terms of his homosexuality” and I don’t think this would have been the best way to go, especially in a 12A film. Malek’s Mercury doesn’t shy away from his sexual orientation but it is a lot more subtle than I imagine Baron Cohen would have been.

The way the film deals with Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis is powerful and effective, I do wonder if a higher age rating may have benefitted the story, as there’s only so much you can do when highlighting his sexual promiscuity  in a 12A film, but the way it is handled is commendable, and in fact, it’s only a small portion of the story and it is clearly not intended to be the main focus, and rightly so, he achieved so much in his short life and this should be the focus, not the terrible illness that took him away. This, at its core, is a celebration of the bizarre, complicated brilliant man that was Freddie Mercury, we see his highs and we see his lows, but we are always rooting for him, and you can’t help but love him.

The supporting cast is excellent, and Queen have an undeniable, natural chemistry that feels very real. It’s very funny, it’s heartfelt, and even when there’s friction between the group, you know deep down they all love each other.

A lot of this film does go through the motions, and at times it feels very streamlined so that it can take us swiftly along to the next hit song without feeling like a drag. There were times I felt like I was just watching a “best hits” montage with little substance, but luckily it was still entertaining enough, for someone who his an admirer of Queen’s music. If you are impartial or not a fan of them, however, then I’m not sure this is the film for you. Where some biopics are captivating regardless of the subject matter, this is very much a movie intended as a nostalgia trip for fans of the band. Freddie Mercury’s story provides the drama, but this takes away from the story of Queen, which means rather than seeing some of the stories behind them and their greatest hits, we just see their greatest hits instead. It seems like there may well have been a lot of “umm’ing and ahh’ing” amongst the filmmakers about whether this should be a Queen or Mercury biopic, which does lead to some balance issues and may leave some audiences feeling a bit unsatisfied.

Luckily, most of this is forgivable because of the infectious chemistry and performances from the band that are nothing short of a blast. It really feels like you are on stage with the band and it’s impossible to not get caught up in the moment and have a great time with them. The finale at the Live Aid concert is beautifully shot and the audience is really given the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere, sometimes you forget you’re watching a biopic, which is a testament to the work put in to recreate this event.

Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t perfect, there are some historical inaccuracies added for dramatic effect, and sometimes meeting the balance between telling Mercury’s story and Queen’s story isn’t executed as well as it could have been. But, it’s great fun and it truly is a fitting tribute and celebration of one of the greatest bands of all time, and their flamboyant, larger than life lead singer. If you like Queen, go and see it, and I’m sure you’ll have a blast. If you’re not that bothered about them, then I’d recommend looking elsewhere for your film fix!

I give Bohemian Rhapsody a 7.5/10.

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