After 10 years of production hell, the Freddie Mercury biopic finally struts onto the big screen. Dissecting the fascinating yet heartbreaking life of Queen’s front man – played astonishingly well by the brilliant Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody looks at the decade-or-so leading up to the band’s breathtaking performance at Live Aid in 1985. Though the way in which this extraordinary story is told is not as satisfying as one could have hoped.
Initial concerns for the film concentrated around the idea that the story was to focus more on the other band members, as if to steal the spotlight from Freddie’s infamous struggle. This is not entirely the case with the finished film. What we see rather is a fairly loose attempt to get close to Freddie, one that always feels a little distracted.
For example, the band’s vexations with Freddie’s exuberant lifestyle are shoehorned into the film through changing the time that Queen released material. This is just frustratingly silly; there are several ways writers Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan could have illustrated this, but it seems as if the need to represent the other bandmates took unnecessary precedence in parts.
Yet despite issues with storytelling, Rami Malek single-handedly elevates Bo Rhap to a level worthy of a Freddie Mercury biopic. He puts on a simply flawless performance as ‘The Great Pretender’ (credit to Jan Sewell and her team in make-up for such a convincing transformation), providing us with that “touch of the heavens” that Freddie promised.
His co-stars all support him fantastically; Lucy Boynton works well as Freddie’s life-long friend Mary Austin. Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello as Brian, Roger and John respectively provide spot on portrayals of their roles in the band. But it is Malek who ties the film together. Whatever is happening, Malek makes it endearing; every positive emotion the film bestows on the viewer, Malek’s performance plays a huge part implementing them.
Bohemian Rhapsody’s pace, though, is patchy. At one point it’s hurtling through the early years of Queen at a ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ pace, then slows down completely in an effort to try and understand Freddie’s daily conflicts. Sadly, the points where natural emotions are trying to be conveyed is where the film is at its weakest. It never feels as if the filmmakers are giving it their everything to really connect with the story at hand; it’s like the stage fright of filmmaking.
And that truly is a massive disappointment, because everything else is spectacular. Yes, it’s overcooked in parts, admittedly it over-dramatises certain events in an attempt to provoke a stronger response, but isn’t that what Queen were all about? The fancy lights, the flamboyant displays, organised chaos left, right and centre; it is what it is, and what it is, is Queen.
The mind-blowing recreation of Queen’s Live Aid performance alone is enough reason to see this film on the big screen. It really will send shivers down spines. The film isn’t as emotionally stimulating as the 2016 documentary The Freddie Mercury Story: Who Wants to Live Forever?, but that’s not to say it doesn’t pack a punch as powerful as Freddie’s iconic stance.
An extraordinary story indeed, but told only adequately; Bohemian Rhapsody is ultimately a muddled yet magnificent showcase.
Image credit: Movie DB