Review: Bohemian Rhapsody
(M) Rami Malek, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Joseph Mazzello, Lucy Boynton, Mike Myers
How do capture a sound, a moment, a band, a man, that spoke to a generation?
The biopic Bohemian Rhapsody gets close. Literally. From the outset of the film, the camera zooms in on the slick glasses, the guitar, the car and the clothes all filtered in this warm vintage hue that you can almost taste the 70s. Even with this tantalizing cinematography, the story of eccentric persona of Freddie Mercury and the band behind some the biggest rock anthems, Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t get close enough.
The film glosses over the drug-fueled parties, the men, the lovers and Freddie’s battle with AIDS. The audience just sees a glimpse of the trauma and strain that invaded Freddie’s life and for the rest of the band members of Queen, well, their on film portrayal is close to saints.
As for the audience, they are still left on the outside. So if you’re looking for biopic that tells you something new about the band then this film isn’t it. You could learn more from news articles, band interviews and Wikipedia (okay maybe not Wikipedia).
In a sense the film could be viewed as respectful of Freddie by not delving deeper into his relationships. This is considering Freddie’s life was continually pried upon by media outlets as well as the exploitative nature of some of the people around him. This approach also seems to be trying to protect the legacy of Freddie, or Queen or both. However this artistic licence used at times through the film, is at the cost of the truth. The film has also been called out for a number of factual inaccuracies, namely when Freddie found out he was HIV positive or which band member decided to start their own solo career first.
What the film does well, is poignantly place how Freddie (Rami Malek) struggled with coming to terms with his identity, first how he tried to desperately distance himself from his Parsi and Indian heritage, by changing his name. And then later struggling with his sexuality amidst the growing media attention. All the while, when the parties ended and the drugs wore off, you see Freddie’s larger than life personality be subdued with this longing to connect and find someone to really love and love him back.
Rami Malek’s (Mr. Robot) nails the presence of Freddie, and his transformation at times, seeming indistinguishable from the iconic musician he portrays. It’s hard to believe anyone else was considered for the role, not to mention that in 2010 comedian/actor Sacha Baron Cohen was first picked to portray Freddie onscreen. Thankfully creative differences meant Cohen was out and a few years later Malek was in. Other standouts include Lucy Boyton (Sing Street), who portrays Mary Austin, the love of Freddie’s life and Tom Hollander (A Private War) as Queen’s lawyer later turned manager, Jim Beach.
One of the strongest points of this film is of course the music, and rest assured despite some factual inaccuracies you will be stomping your feet to ‘We Will Rock You’ and trying to hit that “Galileoooo” on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. One thing director Bryan Singer (X-Men) and writer Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything) have made sure is that Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-thumping celebration of the stellar talents of Freddie Mercury and Queen.
Hey Alexa, play ‘Somebody to Love’ by Queen.