Biography Bohemian Rhapsody

Review: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Hits Multiple High Notes, but Ends Up Being Just Another Formulaic Biopic

November 1, 2018Britany Murphy

We know the band, we know the voice — but not many of us know much about Queen's iconic frontman, Freddie Mercury. Notoriously private throughout his life and career, Mercury is at the center of Bohemian Rhapsody, which attempts to shine a light both the band and the singer throughout their journey to superstardom.

The film opens with Mercury (Rami Malek) set to take the stage at Bob Geldof's huge concert, Live Aid, at Wembley Stadium. Mercury is decked out in his jeans, white tank top and studded arm cuff, but just as he's about to hit the stage, the audience is transported back in time. Mercury is at Heathrow Airport, thinking about bigger and better things as he handles baggage on the tarmac and is addressed with the use of racial slurs from the jerks he works with. It's clear that Mercury is not yet where he’s meant to be, but little does he know that the tides are set to turn in his favor.

Heading out for the evening, Mercury takes in one of his favorite up-and-coming bands, Smile. When bassist and lead vocalist Tim Staffell (Jack Roth) decides to quit the band, guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) are left to fend for themselves and find a new lead singer. Enter the confident Mercury. After telling the band he's been following them for a while and that they could use a new lead singer, to which Taylor replies, "Not with those teeth, mate," Mercury opens his mouth and serenades the duo with his astonishing set of pipes. Awestruck, May and Taylor don't know what to say and Mercury simply tells them, "I'll consider your offer," before sauntering off into the night.

After bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) joins the group, thus begins the road to fame and fortune for Queen. However, their rise to fame is not without its trials and tribulations, especially when they begin to work on their second album. Much to the chagrin of record executive Ray Foster (Mike Myers), their next album is deemed too experimental and he tells them that nobody will listen to it. Of course, that was quite obviously a huge mistake on his part, but it worked out for Queen in the best way possible. The audience is brought back in time to experience Queen at the height of their fame in the '70s and '80s, following the band during their time spent in the recording studio, following them on their tours and everything in between.

Malek puts forth an Oscar-worthy performance as the famed Freddie Mercury, and the amount of research and effort that went into his portrayal is clear. Everything from the speaking, to the mannerisms was spot on, and it's easy to watch Malek as Mercury all day. Malek has chemistry with all of his bandmates, but the chemistry between himself and Lucy Boynton, who plays Mercury's former fiancée and best friend, Mary Austin, was exceptionally great. The pair truly show the bond that Freddie and Mary had throughout his life, and Austin even made Mercury her eldest son's godfather. The moments the pair shared were some of the movie's most honest interactions and it would have served the film better if all of the on-screen interactions had a similar kind of impact.

Directed by Bryan Singer, Bohemian Rhapsody is decent. However, it falls victim to the mundane formula of most biopics. It also gets a little lost in what it was meant to be about. It toes the line between being the story of Queen and the biopic of Freddie Mercury, and while there is no Queen without Freddie Mercury and vice versa, that doesn't exactly make for a smooth narrative at times. Certain elements that you might believe would have been more of a focus are glossed over, or not even really delved into, and there are other elements, like the lives of May, Deacon and Taylor, that the audience doesn't get a chance to see at all.

The pacing can certainly be better, as could the movie as a whole. However, it certainly does have many entertaining moments, and Malek truly captures the essence of Mercury in every performance we see, especially the film's climactic ending at the Live Aid concert. Ultimately, if you're a fan of Queen's music, you will appreciate Bohemian Rhapsody for letting you once again relive Queen's most iconic performances. Otherwise, you might want to stick to listening to Queen's music or watching their live performances on YouTube.

Bohemian Rhapsody releases November 2nd, 2018 from 20th Century Fox. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 14 min.

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