It’s never a great sign when you hear that a film is suffering from production problems and Bohemian Rhapsody’s biographic topic is one you really don’t want to be suffering from production problems. Queen and Freddie Mercury hold the highest calibre of importance in the history of music, it is really hard to find anyone who cannot know a Queen song off by heart. Because of their popularity, this film has to answer to a lot of people and the power and uniqueness of Queen come flooding out, answering what makes Queen unforgettable, yet it never dares to go that one step further into the insider look at Mercury’s life.
Bohemian Rhapsody has a lot of material to use but for this film to be anywhere near entertaining, the film has to get the spirit of Queen and thanks to the flamboyant performance of Rami Malek as Freddie, the spirit is top notch. Malek has really mastered the way Mercury moved on stage with so much passion and emotion that matches Mercury’s four-octave vocal range. Even in the more serious scenes, Malek does brilliantly in capturing Freddie Mercury the victim. It gets very disheartening when you see an icon weighed down by the people who don’t truly care for the man taking advantage of him. Freddie Mercury mentions at the beginning that he aspires to be the person he wants to be, which paints a great picture of the distance he is from that aspiration in his highs and lows.
A real surprise to me was the performance of Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy (Brian May and Roger Taylor). Together they brought clarity to their representation of the family like band which added to Freddie’s internal crossroads. These two are also a great source of comedy as the film knows how to work the rock and roll lifestyle into the comedic dialogue.
The film’s musical performances are all lip synced which is going to become more noticeable amongst those who have seen the live performances of A Star Is Born. But for a film like Bohemian Rhapsody, I didn’t care because what was important was that the film translated the power of those songs to make your core tingle. I wanted to clap along to Radio Ga Ga, I wanted to join in on Freddie’s vocal improvisation, it was a film that made me wish for more audience participation in the cinema as odd as it may sound.
It’s ironic that a band like Queen and who as the film put “need to get more experimental” never gets too experimental with the biopic formula. Another way to capture the nature of Queen and to truly understand them is to have a narrative that follows the methods of the band. However, the film is so formulaic that you could mistake it for a paint by numbers music-biopic, following in the footsteps of This Is Spinal Tap or Straight Outta Compton. This done for the sake of entertainment rather than a layered, in-depth look at the band and Mercury.
Also, the formation of Queen and their rise to fame felt way too snappy. I feel sorry for the people who took an early toilet break, one moment the band is forming together, the next they’ve changed their name to Queen, the next they’ve recorded an album, the next they’re touring the US. Their rise to fame is rushed and gotten out of the way quickly and with what reason? I felt I had barely scratched the surface of Mercury at the beginning. I had little idea what his relationship with his individual family members was like, I have no idea where his love of music came from, it’s like the film has holes that it is depending on your knowledge of Mercury to fill, creating the illusion of a fulfilling character introduction.
Although an unfair opinion, I believe people’s experience is going to be affected by what Queen songs they are expecting to hear in Bohemian Rhapsody. The film tries its best to cram in as many classics as possible, but it also has to miss a lot out which will cast judgement. Furthermore, the film is decent in building up towards the songs chosen, but you can tell by the Live Aid scene that the filmmakers realized we’ve missed out on a few favourites, so let’s cram them all into the Live Aid concert whilst trying to stay historically accurate. It let me down there as I came to realize this scene is just a greatest hits compilation, rather than an actual scene.
Bohemian Rhapsody made me think that maybe Queen is too big for a simple biopic. I would rather have sat through a 3hr epic biopic (or bio-epic) than a standard 2hr+ film because I still left the cinema feeling like I had come away not knowing more about the band and the man that has been so important to the music industry. For some, the music and performances will be enough to satisfy and I get that, I only wish that more facts could have been worked into the writing. Nevertheless, this film may have bitten the dust, but Freddie Mercury and Queen will still rule as champions.
Final Result: 5/10 – Average
Have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below
Next Time: Peterloo