Bohemian Rhapsody, directed by Brian Singer (and technically also Dexter Fletcher), is a cheap, shallow film that uses the joy inducing music of Queen, and a possible career best performance from Rami Malek to try and make you think it’s better than it actually is. Beyond the music we all know and love; this is a film that is devoid of anything that feels… alive. For much of my time with Bohemian Rhapsody, I was either frustrated, unengaged and so desperately wishing it would give the exposure to the characters that they deserved. This is the worst kind of biopic film and my review will sadly be centred around what that is, so let’s get to it.
Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the rise to music domination of the band Queen through its lead singer, Freddie Mercury – played by Rami Malek – and the seemingly infinite hits that made them so popular.
There were a handful of times where I felt myself being lured in by Bohemian Rhapsody. I began to think, ‘Hey, this movie isn’t actually that bad.’ But I would quickly realise it wasn’t the film itself that I was responding positively to, it was in fact the infectiously good music of Queen – this is what the majority of my experience with Bohemian Rhapsody was.
You see, Bohemian Rhapsody is almost like a really well executed trick. You don’t at first see how it’s done and until you realise how it is, you think you’ve seen some magical, and it’s the music that plays a central part in the illusion. The musical moments can very quickly cause you to forget about the terribly handled way in which we got to the point in which we were hearing another one of Queen’s songs. You get lost in the joy that the music instils in you, and you just see the music in front of you and think how good it is, and not how poor the film is.
Because the moment you don’t allow the music to control you and you look past it to see what it really is, you see a film that relies on all the worst elements of a biopic film to tell its story.
Take one of the most important elements of the film: the actual individuals who made up Queen and the people around them that helped guide them. In this film – other than Freddie Mercury (who even still isn’t handled that well) – there is very little substance to anyone. Everyone has a single defining quality, and the film relies so intently on that singular quality, that no one feels like an actually well-defined individual, and thus, the film feels empty.
Worse than that, the portrayal of the people in the film felt dishonest. It felt more like we were getting the publicly perceived version of the characters, rather than who they actually were when they weren’t surrounded by the media or adoring fans. I never felt like I gained a new insight into anyone. I never felt like the film took the time or made the effort to show the individuals of Queen as anything more than just caricatures – other than Freddie Mercury, who I’ll be exploring in a second.
But it’s not the handling of the characters that feels badly done; the story of Queen and their rise to untameable popularity all feels too… convenient, or unnatural. The way in which Queen formed, how the got their first big break, how ANY of their hits came about, how they came back from their split – I could go on with this list – every single moment in the story of Queen felt like it was conceived and constructed by committee to achieve the most unrealistic but comfortable structure of events. Nothing feels natural in how it comes about. Nothing felt genuine or like it was the true telling of the group’s stories. Nothing felt… real. Everything just happened in a way that audiences would think or want it to happen and the makers of the film were completely fine sticking to something that was hollow but comfortable… safe to experience.
When it comes to Freddie Mercury’s story, the film did do a slightly better job of pulling me in and emotionally investing me, but the main problem with how his story is told is that it doesn’t give a full feeling picture. The way the storytelling is approached sees events in Freddie’s life be used to further the plot or reveal something about him and once those moments or elements have been utilised, the film would then abandon them – it would forget about them as they’d served their purpose, and it would only bring them back when it needed to utilise them further. Again, it didn’t feel natural. There was no consistency or clear thematic through-line that seemed to be being followed. Just a highlight reel that would help further the films view of things, regardless of if it was well told.
The one saving grace when it comes to Freddie Mercury’s story is the performance by Rami Malek. It is a performance that full embodies the incredible performer. There were many times where my eyes were tricked, and I thought I was seeing Freddie Mercury on the screen and not Rami Malek. There was clearly a lot of effort on Malek’s part to have the same physical presence as Mercury on stage – both from how he physically looked and also how he moved. It was a situation where Malek disappeared and from him came a pretty spot on mimic of Freddie Mercury. But outside of him portraying Freddie Mercury, it’s also the most range I felt I’ve ever seen from him. He did a lot to draw me in emotionally, and there were certainly a few times where I felt myself wading past all the issues and having a response that was more than frustration and was instead caring.
What you have with Bohemian Rhapsody is a film that fails on nearly every level – minus the music (which it had nothing to do with creatively) and a stellar performance – and it’s all because (in my opinion) that it goes down the path of being an uninspiring, cosy biopic film. During my time with the film, I kept thinking of Damian Chazelle’s First Man and how so very different in handling and execution it was compared to this film. Both individuals at the forefront of those films went through impossible personal hardships, yet still prevailed professionally. But First Man tells its story in a way that doesn’t sugar-coat anything, and it feels extremely human in its tone. Meanwhile, Bohemian Rhapsody was so unnatural in how it was handled, that I never believed I was seeing a genuine telling of the story of Queen. One was full of life and humanity, and the other felt like a comfortable TV movie that comes on during a Sunday afternoon.
Bohemian Rhapsody is an unfortunately empty film that I feel fails both Queen as an iconic band and also its lead singer, Freddie Mercury, whose story deserved so much better than this.
I DO NOT recommend, Bohemian Rhapsody. Do you know what you should absolutely watch instead? Go to YouTube and watch Queen’s Live Aid performance. There’s more life and meaning in that twenty-minute performance, than in the entirety of this film. I assure you, you won’t regret it!
I’d be really interested to know what you thought of Bohemian Rhapsody, and my review of it, so please leave any opinions, thoughts or feedback you may have down in the comments section below. If you liked what you read, then please consider following both/either my blog itself, and/or my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. But I’ll let you get back to whatever you were doing and close out by offering you my heartfelt thanks. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my silly little blog, it means the world to me!