Film synopsis from Fox:
Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury. Freddie defied stereotypes and shattered convention to become one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn Freddie, surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates just in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. Queen cements a legacy that continues to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day.
So let’s get the elephant in the room out-of-the-way. The film does not shy away from the subject of Freddie Mercury being gay or his diagnosis of AIDS. What the film wisely doesn’t do is dwell upon it.
Bohemian Rhapsody plays like Queen’s greatest hits package in the sense that it hit some of the main point in the history of the band but with 134 minutes of film there is no way that you are going to be able to fit all of the story of the band into that tiny space. As a huge Queen fan and a pretty good knowledge of their music and story there were lots of things that I would have liked to seen covered but then that would be a documentary and not a film. The one thing that the film does is that it centers the majority of the story on Freddie and for good reason because he is and was the flamboyant front man who most people know about Queen and even with Brian, Roger and John being regulated to the background for most of the film they did try to fit in at least some of their story into the film but with mixed success. The timeline is played a bit fast and loose with some story elements that occur out-of-order for dramatic purposes. While Queen went on from Live Aid to record three more albums and go on one final world tour in 1986.
The one thing that the film does get very right is with the cast and that is where the film work very well. Rami Malek portrayal of Mercury is spot on and many time is uncanny with his look and actions that with the help of costume designer Julian Day and makeup artist Jan Sewell do and outstanding job on transforming Malek into Freddie but costumes and makeup will only go so far and Malek delivers the emotions and heart into the film that is where it really shines. For me the most uncanny casting was Gwilym Lee who played Brian May and with the wig and his accent makes it appear that they cloned May and created a younger version of him to play in the film. Lucy Boynton brings Freddie’s love of his life Mary Austin to life very nicely and shows both the ups and downs of their relationship. Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor and Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon round out the rest of the band nicely.
There are both plusses and minuses to the story of the film because it plays fast and loose with the actual history of the band there are times where the film rushes moments and there are some elements that are simply not fleshed out as well as one would have liked or hoped. The one thing that the film does very well is with the music and the performances. Malek and his performance coach Polly Bennett wisely don’t necessarily try to mimic Freddie but instead he uses little touches like looks and the way that he holds and uses the microphone.
Overall the film works better than I expected but in the end I simply wish that there was more. Singer who was fired off of the film with Dexter Fletcher coming in to finish the film turn in an adequate job and while the performances and the music drive the film very well neither the direction or the script do more than deliver the basics. It’s hard to say if that is a fault of the film or simply trying to tell way too much story in a limited timeframe of a feature film. It’s not to say that the film is bad but it never quite reaches the heights of the music or the performances that really save the film in the end.
I did enjoy the film and never felt that the pacing or production was a total failure but biography films are very hard to pull off and few have gotten it right. As with most of them they have to play fast and loose with both history and facts and this is obviously the case here. In the end the question is will you have a good time if you see Bohemian Rhapsody and that is a yes because the music and Freddie are simply mesmerizing and that aspect of the film is where it shines. But as a real look at the band and it’s history it is pretty much the bare minimum. The one thing that I hope that it does do is inspire a new generation to listen and be inspired by Queen’s music and discover what I have known for a long time is that Freddie Mercury was one of the greatest voices to grace music and did things his way till the end.
Long Live Queen and God Bless Freddie!
Production companies: New Regency, GK Films
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers
Director: Bryan Singer
Story by: Anthony McCarten, Peter Morgan
Screenwriter: Anthony McCarten
Producers: Graham King, Jim Beach
Executive producers: Arnon Milchan, Dennis O’Sullivan, Justin Haythe, Dexter Fletcher, Jane Rosenthal
Director of photography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Production designer: Aaron Haye
Costume designer: Julian Day
Editor: John Ottman
Composer: John Ottman
Casting director: Susie Figgis
Rated PG-13, 134 minutes