A standard formula for biopics is followed to the near percentage point in Bryan Singer‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (as also co-directed by Dexter Fletcher following Singer’s firing) starring Rami Malek as famed lead singer Freddie Mercury. While the film’s clunky direction and eye-rolling scene setups are manifested, it’s the wondrous performance of Malek that makes it worth every scene spent. Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan‘s script utilizes a few too many tropes that we’ve observed in other films to warrant any new, unique perspective but the music of Queen is alive and rapturous as their biggest creations are recreated to a total delight.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” chronicles the years leading up to Queen’s legendary appearance at the 1985 Live Aid concert. Told through the eyes of lead singer Freddie Mercury (Malek), we witness the rise and struggle of one the music industry’s most iconic influences.
Rami Malek‘s all-encompassing performance vibrantly steals every scene he inhabits. It’s an excellent portrayal of an excellent musician. A flawed movie surrounds him but his captivating acting and bustling persona smooth out the rough spots.
While “Bohemian Rhapsody” is potent and pulsing as far as the music goes, its over-reticent, self-conscious themes keep it stuck in unexplored covers when it comes to the singer’s creative and larger than complex life. In spite of Malek’s performance, we barely scratch the surface of Freddie Mercury’s interior and personal workings. There are so many unexplored ideas of the man, who left a lasting impression on the gay and AIDS community for decades. The Live Aid concert scene, which is one of the single best moments seen on film this year, is left on the floor to end the film, when there is/was so much for the filmmakers to examine. It feels like a letdown.
As far as band members go, they’re painted as bright as anyone with a hand in the material can be. Ben Hardy‘s Roger is tried in spots, but a bizarre decision not to age him over this long period covered will be a head-scratcher. Gwilym Lee‘s Brian May seems to be the positive energy while Joseph Mazzello‘s John Deacon garners quite a few chuckles throughout.
Lucy Boynton‘s Mary Austin, Freddie’s wife, is one of the big highlights outside of Malek. Sensitive and beautiful, Boynton displays an inner-conflict of a man who is both her best friend and her husband but knows deep down who he really is. Mike Myers‘ Ray Foster is a one-scene champ, as a record producer who regrets more than he’ll know. Allen Leech‘s Paul Prenter, a leach on Freddie’s life, is a profoundly complicated villain who is underserved by a lackluster role written for him.
Well-developed and mixed sound work is able to bubble to the top but is held back at moments by its inconsistent editing. You may find yourself floored by Malek’s makeup as he truly becomes the iconic British singer while its production and costume recreations are indelible in certain scenes.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” may not be perfect. In fact, there are many things that feel apparently wrong but you still find yourself enthralled with what’s going on, even if you’re not clicking with its dynamic. The viewer finds itself falling for Malek’s interpretation of a paradoxical man, even if the screenplay isn’t calling for that complexity. All in all, this is a softball version of the Queen story that people may appreciate but will leave many wanting more.