Bohemian Rhapsody could’ve been way better. It should’ve been way better. It’s absolutely not the biopic Queen, Freddie Mercury, or any of us, for that matter, deserved.
This review is a Bohemian Rhapsody second opinion. You can check out an alternate perspective by clicking these words.
It’s always a bizarre feeling when you walk away from a film not really knowing what to make of it. Bohemian Rhapsody kind of has me lost for words. There were some fantastic moments; the overall characterisation of the main men was pretty good, and then there was the music (which they thankfully decided not to reproduce). But there were flaws, and ultimately this meant it ended up being a film that neither Queen nor Freddie Mercury deserved.
The film tells (or was supposed to tell) the story of Queen up to their phenomenal Live Aid performance in 1986. However, it tried to focus too much on Freddie Mercury as an individual at the same time. Now, obviously you cannot have one without the other, but to try and give both the same amount of attention without one taking centre stage and causing us to not care about the other is probably an impossible task. If it is possible, I must admit Bohemian Rhapsody failed to prove that to me. Instead, it felt like it couldn’t decide what story it wanted to tell, and as a result, it became more of a 2-for-1 deal on both, and then didn’t even bother to finish them properly.
I’ll also say that I didn’t care much for how it portrayed relations within the band either. I have no doubt that there was a diva-fit or two whilst the band worked their way up, and then a few more followed whilst they were in their prime, I’m sure. But this took the more sensationalist view that the other three band members thought Freddie was slightly more than a tolerable pain in the backside. I’ll be honest, I think they completely misconstrued his eccentricities as brattish behaviour, and this was a real sticking point for me.
Now, of course, I could spend the entirety of this review crying about every single one of the film’s shortcomings, but that would only depress me. Plus, I think it’s important to note that there are elements that work well for the film, although I must stress these are very limited.
Whilst I may not be a fan of how the relationships between band members were shown, I can say that the performances and characterisation by those portraying each member were almost all spot on. It’s no secret that Rami Malek is fabulous as Freddie Mercury. I am not the first, nor will I be the last to say that. However, there were three other people in Queen and so there are three other performances here worth talking about – two of which I think are on a par with Malek’s, although they are far more subtle. Gwilym Lee literally became Brian May. Physically, he was a spitting image of the man, and I think the voice and mannerisms were bang on too. Joseph Mazello was just as good as John Deacon, and I think he actually made way for the unsung hero of the band to shine. Ben Hardy helped provide the laughs as Roger Taylor, although without sounding too awful that’s about all he did.
One of the main fears I had about this film took hold way before news of the production dramas started to surface. Would they feel the need to re-record the songs that would be featured in the story? Without being overly dramatic, I cannot think of anything worse than that. Freddie Mercury possessed one of the greatest and most inimitable voices ever known, and to try and recreate it for any film would be unforgivable if you ask me. I am SO GLAD Bryan Singer (if he stuck around long enough to make the decision) chose to feature the original songs and got the actors to lip-sync. It’s one of the two things I can truly be an advocate of here.
Considering I was lost for words at the start of this review, I seem to have found a few pretty damning ones down. Bohemian Rhapsody could’ve been way better. It should’ve been way better. It’s absolutely not the biopic Queen, Freddie Mercury, or any of us, for that matter, deserved. But it’s what we got. A cheap, bargain-bucket deal that thinks killing two birds with one stone is doing it’s subject(s) and it’s audience justice. Let me tell you: it is not. The performances and the music, as good as they may be, sadly can’t save it. This may be the film that disappoints me most this year. If you take only one thing from this review, let it be that if you want to feel more in touch with the band and its story, you’d be better off listening to Queen’s Greatest Hits for the next 3 years than watching this. It’d be a truer and far superior account.