Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Rami Malek headlines Bohemian Rhapsody, a biopic depicting the meteoric rise to rock-and-roll immortality for the legendary band Queen and its once-in-a-generation front-man Freddie Mercury. That is to say, Malek does his utmost to elevate this picture with a respectable likeness to Mercury but the film’s uneven pace and its hot-and-cold delivery left some sour notes that still ring in the ears.

Bryan Singer is credited with directing the film, even though behind-the-scenes controversy ultimately led to his removal from the feature. Anthony McCarten scribes the film, collaborating with Peter Morgan on the story which follows Malek’s take on Mercury, from the band’s beginning upon meeting Brian May and Roger Taylor and chronicles the major moments of the band’s prolific career; everything from bringing on John Deacon as their bass-player, going rogue against the BBC to broadcast their iconic, operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody”, to addressing Mercury’s sexual orientation, Freddie coming to grips with his AIDS diagnosis, to the unforgettable performance at Live Aid.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie and I was fascinated by the events depicted in the film and seeing the origins of so many of Queen’s iconic anthems but I didn’t believe Malek captured the gravitas and presence that Mercury possessed, the story was a roller-coaster of tone and mood and the fact that a story that had such legendary individuals settled for conventional story-telling prowess was such a disservice.

Furthermore, I felt that the story was a bit unbalanced in telling whose story this truly was. At times I was wondering if this was supposed to be more Freddie Mercury’s story rather than the story of Queen and while both felt connected, it ultimately lacked cohesion that I could not see past.

The cast is good for the most part. Again, I thought Malek did his utmost in replicating the persona of Mercury rather than embody it. Lucy Boynton, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Joseph Mazzello, Allen Leech, Aiden Gillen, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Aaron McCusker, Ace Bhatti, Meneka Das, Priya Blackburn, Dermot Murphy, this is an okay collection of actors and while Malek is the star of the show, everyone else falls in the “fair-enough” category; I wasn’t overly impressed by anyone but I can get over that.

The work done behind the camera and behind the scenes wasn’t bad but barely noteworthy. Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography is good, John Ottman’s editing is decent, Aaron Haye’s production design is fine, the art direction team under the supervision of David Hindel and Stuart Kearns did a nice job, Anna Lynch-Robinson and Lucy Howe did a splendid job decorating the sets, and I thought Julian Day did a great job with the costumes.

As far as biopics go, this isn’t the best I’ve seen. In fact, considering what happened behind the scenes regarding the fallout with Bryan Singer, I came away with the impression that this could have gone so much better.

I was really looking forward to Bohemian Rhapsody for a long time! I love Queen’s music, I was fascinated to learn more about who these remarkable and talented individuals came from and how they left their mark of music history and in the end, I felt that this movie didn’t do enough to truly rock me.

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