Bryan Singer’s new Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic unfortunately traipses around the stage in flashy attire, but fails to ground itself in any real substance. It feels more like a greatest hits montage than a film about one of the world’s most prolific artists of all time.
Bohemian Rhapsody stars Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek as legendary musician Freddie Mercury, who, through talent and flair, turns a college bar band comprised of a dentist, an astrophysicist, and an electrical engineer into arguably the most historic rock group ever. However, when fame begins to go to Freddie’s head – compounded by manipulations from a power-hungry boyfriend (played by Downton Abbey’s Allen Leech) – the future of Queen finds itself at stake.
If that sounds paint-by-numbers, that’s because it is. Frankly, that is the main problem with the movie: to a T, it’s predictable, which is a word that should never be used to describe anything related to Freddie Mercury or Queen. We’re treated to showcases of Freddie directing his bandmates through the recording process for the titular single, Brian May developing the beat for “We Will Rock You,” John Deacon (Jurassic Park’s Joseph Mazzello all grown up) introducing his compatriots to disco and “Another One Bites the Dust,” and a running joke in which Roger Taylor (X-Men: Apocalypse’s Ben Hardy) writes “I’m in Love with My Car,” but none of it feels meaningful in any substantial way.
By the time we arrive at the point where Freddie’s ill fate befalls him and he has to make everything right with his friends – which, because of pacing issues/an overuse of montage, feels like it comes way earlier than it should, but actually arrives about an hour and forty-five minutes into the movie – the emotion feels staged and forced because we haven’t been given the opportunity to really meet these four people. Bohemian Rhapsody falls victim to the same issue I have with a lot of biopics; it jumps around too much in time. I barely feel like I know Freddie at the onset of his private coming out than suddenly it’s years later and he’s an out and proud (to his friends at least) gay man.
The movie has some good qualities to it. Singer found the perfect actor to portray Freddie; it’s downright scary how Malek transforms, physically and sonically, into the Queen frontman. There’s also beautiful usage of lighting in one of the early montage sequences (Queen’s first American tour), particularly in one instance where Roger Taylor covers his drum set in beer and, as he plays, it splashes upwards and refracts the light. Then there’s the third act, which recreates Queen’s set at Live Aid, is frankly so spot-on that it could have been archival footage and I would have never known the difference.
Bohemian Rhapsody is overly long and presents nothing truly worth talking about. It feels like an old history textbook with a bunch of pages ripped up or missing entirely. You’re likely to find a more comprehensive story about Queen at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Bohemian Rhapsody sashays into theatres on November 2 with 2-out-of-5 #1 hits.