Bohemian Rhapsody: Film Review

I was worried going into Bohemian Rhapsody because I really want to love it wholeheartedly as I’m a fan of Queen and the trailer got me hyped. I must admit that it does have some issues but I still enjoyed it immensely.

The film charts the inception of the band in 1970 to their 1985 performance at Live Aid. Rami Malek stars as their flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury, alongside Gwilym Lee as guitarist Brian May, Joseph Mazzello as bassist John Deacon and Ben Hardy as drummer Roger Taylor. The film shows us how they met and follows them through the creation of their greatest hits and their rise to fame as Mercury gets more wild, unreliable and reckless. It also touches on his longtime friendship with former girlfriend Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and him confronting his sexuality.

The best thing about Bohemian Rhapsody is, without a doubt, Malek. He is sensational. I was blown away by his performance. He carries the movie with his commanding presence and truly captures Mercury’s larger than life persona, particularly when performing on stage. He didn’t look exactly like Mercury all the time and the fake teeth were off-putting at first, but you forget about it soon enough and relish watching his transformation into Mercury. You forget that it’s him you’re watching after a while. His British accent is so good – you would never think he was American – and he looks the part in the fabulous costumes by Julian Day, who must win an award for his work.

Malek has some strong support too. Lee looks uncannily like May when he puts the wig on and was the most impressive piece of casting appearance-wise. Mazzello (Tim from Jurassic Park!!) also looked a bit like Deacon and shocked me with his convincing British accent. I also enjoyed Mike Myers as EMI executive Ray Foster, Tom Hollander as manager Jim Beach, while Boynton added a much-needed emotional subplot and Downton Abbey’s Allen Leech got the villain role, as Mercury’s deceitful personal manager Paul.

Sadly, they are let down by a weak script by Anthony McCarten, who is unlikely to receive awards nominations like he did for The Theory of Everything. It is just very conventional and surface level. I was hoping it would dig deeper and be an intimate, warts-and-all type biopic, but it is more like a brief synopsis of their greatest hits and achievements, like a bullet point list. It is quite shallow and by the numbers, hitting the same beats every musician/celebrity biopic does. It doesn’t want to show us what things were truly like, but just to celebrate Queen, which isn’t surprising given May and Taylor were heavily involved in this. I didn’t come away feeling like I knew who Mercury really was, and his bandmates were even worse off, not getting any limelight at all. They are simply thinly-drawn supporting characters.

There was an outcry when the trailer came out as people assumed Bohemian Rhapsody would avoid addressing Mercury’s sexuality and his AIDS diagnosis. I can assure everybody that it’s all in there – but it’s explored no more than everything else (so not very much). I reckon some people will say it’s not enough.

The movie has also had its fair share of controversy with the firing of director Bryan Singer, who was replaced by Dexter Fletcher (although Singer retains sole credit). I feared it would be obvious who directed what, and that it would be a disjointed movie, but that’s not the case at all, and if you didn’t know about that scandal, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

The film may have a weak story and script but it is carried by Malek, the music, and the epic stage set pieces, where we get to see Malek strutting his stuff in wild costumes. Live Aid is obviously the big showstopper and it is incredible. What a finale.

So Bohemian Rhapsody is by no means perfect, but I can’t deny that I enjoyed it a lot. It made me remember how much I love Queen’s songs. It may not be the gritty, deep biopic I would have liked but it is a truly entertaining unabashed celebration of Queen, Mercury and their legacy.

In cinemas now

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: