Starring: Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy
Director: Bryan Singer
Running Time: 134 mins
Bohemian Rhapsody is an American/British film about the story of legendary band Queen, and its frontman Freddie Mercury, as they encounter tensions and personal crises over the years leading up to their performance at Live Aid in 1985.
As far as music history goes, Queen, and frontman Freddie Mercury in particular, are one of the undoubted all-time greats, with a unique and intense energy to their music that few acts have ever been close to matching. As far as music biopics go, however, Bohemian Rhapsody really doesn’t live up to the potential of what is an incredible story, and although it has its moments, it’s a generally rather superficial film that lacks the immense energy that makes Queen as a band and Mercury as an individual so legendary.
But let’s start on the plus side, with the fact that fans of Queen will undoubtedly have a good time with Bohemian Rhapsody. That doesn’t immediately render it an incredible movie, but if you’re a fan of the band’s music, and have an interest in Freddie Mercury’s story, then this film will prove a far more entertaining watch, with the odd musical number here and there getting my toes tapping effortlessly.
The problem with the film is that, while it features some good songs and tells a great story, it really fails to get to the crux of what makes Freddie Mercury such a legendary figure, going over the fifteen year span of the story in rather superficial and simplistic detail.
As a result, if you want to learn about the history of Queen, this is a great film to watch, but I was left wanting a whole lot more, particularly a deeper analysis of Mercury as an individual, rather than the simple facts of what happened to him. In that, Bohemian Rhapsody is a fairly generic biopic, and it doesn’t do quite enough to spark an immense interest in something that should be so much more spectacular.
Above all, the film’s first half is a really disappointing watch. Jumping back and forth between a focus on the band as a whole and Mercury alone, it’s an infuriatingly messy period that’s peppered with a few random and rather emotionless (albeit entertaining) musical numbers, making for a disappointing and underwhelming opening to the film.
What’s more is that the dialogue is really rather poor throughout. Apart from the fact that the majority of the humour really falls flat, too many scenes feel like a slow-moving slog through some very iffy dialogue, as the film attempts to create a sense of pathos as we see Mercury discovering more about who he truly is, but unfortunately misses the mark with a heap of dialogue scenes that lack the emotion and energy that I felt the film was really in need of.
So, the first half is an undoubtedly disappointing, and with a rather superficial and generic biopic setup, as well as less-than-stellar dialogue and humour, Bryan Singer’s direction means that the film often comes across as a rather boring watch, with none of the vigour or deep emotional conflict that’s needed to transform the story from a history lesson into something a whole more affecting.
Fortunately, things do turn around about halfway through, and although it all takes a very long time to get started, the film’s second half introduces some strong dramatic conflict surrounding Mercury’s sexuality and increasingly flamboyant lifestyle, which makes for a far more interesting watch.
While I can’t say that the dialogue or humour improves particularly towards the end, there is at least a sense of dramatic depth and emotion that shines through eventually, and that’s what makes the film’s second half a far more engrossing and entertaining watch, concluding with an excellent medley of Queen’s greatest hits that finally packs a good emotional punch, even if it does all feel like too little, too late.
Rami Malek’s performance is an interesting one for me, because it’s the only part of the movie that’s got a bit of flamboyance and energy to it from start to finish. On the one hand, that’s an excellent portrayal of Freddie Mercury when contrasted with the people around him, and Malek does a great job at bringing him to life right the way through, particularly when things become a little more emotional in the second half.
On the other hand, there’s a bit of a clash between Malek’s performance and the rest of the film’s rather underwhelming nature. In the first half above all, it feels like Malek is really overacting, and you’re not able to see him as Freddie Mercury for a long while, definitely not until the screenplay gets its act together towards the second half. It’s an energetic and hard-working performance, and that ultimately comes good, but there’s something about it that just doesn’t mix in with the rest of the film, feeling a little distracting and even jarring at points.
Overall, then, I have to say that Bohemian Rhapsody is a bit of a mixed bag. While it tells the story of an incredible man and his part in an incredible band, it fails to really inject the same passion and energy that Queen’s legacy has left on the world, coming across as a rather superficial and simplistic biopic that starts off in very disappointing fashion, only coming good a long way into the film, before a very entertaining but belated finale, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2.