One of the bands of all time, Queen, has finally gotten a movie dedicated to their story. Was it worth the wait? Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of the band and their lead singer, Freddie Mercury leading up to their legendary performance at Live Aid.
To address the elephant in the room — no, this film didn’t live up to its namesake. In fact, it is a very standard and by-the-book music biopic, which is admittedly disappointing given the legendary status of Queen and their music. That being said, as a fan of Queen, the movie is entirely enjoyable.
At its core, this is a pure crowd-pleaser. For the most part, it skims the surface in terms of character development and deep storytelling in favor of giving the audience moments that they will appreciate. Nothing particularly insightful about the musicians or their artistic process is gained from the film. Instead, it is a fun time watching the story of one of the greatest bands of all time and listening to their music.
The movie is also somewhat contrived and convenient at times. It is obvious that there were quite a few dramatic liberties taken with the true story for the purpose of making the story seem more cinematic. For example, in the lead-up to the finale, the subplots wrap themselves up too nicely. Furthermore, the film’s timeline is questionable. There are multiple jumps in time that prevent the audience from getting to know the members of the band and their work more.
That being said, what would otherwise be an average movie is turned into a solid one by some great performances. It still isn’t to the level at which it should have been, but it is watchable. Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury is utterly engrossing. He truly becomes the character. This has to be one of the best transformations all year, because Malek absolutely nails the mannerisms and persona of the singer. In a few scenes, his lip-syncing does get slightly off, but he is otherwise great. Also worthy of note is Gwilym Lee, who plays Bryan May. Although Malek steals the show, it is almost shocking how closely Lee mirrors the real-life subject.
Additionally, the film does a great job with some elements of the story in particular. For example, the way in which the story develops Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin is quite effective. This storyline gives the movie much of its emotional grounding and provides for what is perhaps the best scene in the film. Other highlights include the negotiations with record producer Ray Foster (Mike Myers), the scene in which the eponymous ballad is written, and, of course, the brilliant recreation of the Live Aid concert.
In addition the standard writing, the movie also has some other issues, particularly with its execution. The film can’t seem to decide on a consistent visual style. There were some scenes that were very fluid in both their cinematography and editing, but there were others that were notably rough. For example, there is a montage showing Queen’s various tour stops that uses animated graphics. These were noticeably distracting.
Overall, even though Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t quite the biopic that a musician as great as Freddie Mercury deserves, it is still a lot of fun. You surely won’t be bored, and you’ll probably have a hard time getting the music out of your head after seeing the film.
Bohemian Rhapsody opens in theaters November 2.