Image: Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, and Ben Hardy in Bohemian Rhapsody © Property of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. [Source: IMDB]
A much-troubled production made it through to the other side to tell the tale of the years leading up to Queen’s legendary performance at Live Aid 1985. Rami Malek steps into women’s jeans, a thick moustache and aviator sunglasses to bring Mercury to the screen as the films attempts to show us behind the scenes of the bands iconic songs and Mercury himself.
Director: Bryan Singer. Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello [12A]
For such a troubled production, first and foremost I want to give credit to this film for coming out the other side looking untouched by all the problems it has had trying to get made. But this is yet another biopic that doesn’t care to be a delve into who it is putting under the microscope and instead just wishes to be a joyful skip through some years of somebodies life.
It’s an odd outcome for a film that started off wanting to be the definitive look into the complex and extremely interesting individual that is Freddie Mercury. To which it does very little in the way of justifying itself and instead seems as though it just wanted to be a generic sing a long movie to the greatest hits from Queen with a big redo of Live Aid at the end. Which just becomes even more unsatisfying when you see the great performances put into this picture – Malek who starts out as kind of local impersonator who is drunk every time he steps on stage, really gels into the role and surprisingly brings a lot of understated and quiet magnificence to the more reserved moments of Freddie’s life and adds some spirit to the big sing-along moments that add an extra punch to the performances. He nails the charisma of Freddie and the sadness as well, equally nailing his role is Brain May as himself, oh I mean Gwilym Lee who might as well be an identical twin. Everyone around these performances are strong also and do well to support the larger than life character of it.
While the film celebrates the experimental nature and larger than life attitude of Mercury and Queen, the filmmaking takes a far blander and dull approach. Hardly worth the mention if not for the fact that it’s static and soulless structure and directional choices add nothing to the picture but empty nonsense while you listen to the greatest hits. Furthering this is the lack of inspection, it does have its moments of dissection of Mercury and what perhaps fuelled his songs, his attitude and the band during moments of his life but its a light brushing of the scalpel at best, it’s purely superficial. You are left as ambiguous about Mercury and Queen’s music as you were when you came in.
Despite that, it does what the studios likely wanted from it after all its troubles – it’s a good time. The music is, of course, incredible and even though it is just a redo of their performance at Live Aid, it none the less creates that same kinetic energy that will have you stomping your feet and clapping your hands. It is just a shame that while it’s an entertaining two hours it does little in exploring what Queen was about and their success and does even less on who Freddie Mercury was and what drove him.