In the over two decades between their inception in 1970 until lead singer Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991 from AIDS, Queen made an incredible impact on the world of rock and roll. Their music and lyrics were oftentimes just as flamboyant and charismatic as Mercury himself. However, Mercury also supposedly battled internal demons in order to find his true self. At least that’s what Bohemian Rhapsody tells us.
It stars Rami Malek as Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara, who went from being a baggage handler at London’s Heathrow Airport to auditioning for Queen. Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello are Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon respectively. They want to get noticed, but they feel like they need to be more experimental in their approach and technique and that’s where “Bohemian Rhapsody” was born. The process of creating this masterpiece is one of the film’s biggest highlights.
While trying to move their band up from playing in colleges and into arenas, we also get a look at Mercury’s private life as when he dated Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and it also delves into when Mercury started questioning whether he truly loved her. It also goes into more conventional aspects such as seeing the band record material for their breakthrough album, “A Night at the Opera,” as well as going to Mercury’s other professional and personal relationships.
When the more important moments come, there’s no real scenes of true insight. Instead of going real deep into Mercury’s soul and psyche as well as his interaction with the rest of the group, the movie feels the need to transition from one event to another. In these moments, we want to say, “We will not let you go,” but the movie argues otherwise.
Malek does genuinely give a spectacularly convincing performance as Mercury not only in terms of his look, but also his style, charisma, and essence. There were times I was able to see past Malek and become convinced I was looking at Mercury. His performance doesn’t disappoint.
Even though the movie only achieves gold status as opposed to platinum and I think the real ambitions are undermined by conventionality, there’s a decent movie here instead of a great one.
Bryan Singer, who is credited as director, was allegedly fired before production wrapped, and maybe his sanitised, PG-13 version of Mercury’s life compromises what could’ve delivered actual greatness.
Oh, and be prepared to stomp your feet during the climax featuring a sensational recreation of Live Aid from 1985.
(Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content, and language.)