Bohemian Rhapsody is a 2018 biographical drama film about the legendary rock band Queen and their larger than life frontman Freddie Mercury, tracing the band and Freddie from the band’s inception in 1970 to their iconic performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985. The film stars Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek as Mercury, alongside Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aiden Gillen, Tom Hollander, and Mike Meyers.
I should begin this review by mentioning that Queen has been my favorite band of all time since I discovered them while stuck in a hospital at twelve. Because of this, this may not be the most objective review I have ever written, just thought I would throw that out there. I had to resurrect the blog precisely because I am so deeply conflicted. It is very much a studio movie. By that I mean that it’s a big-budget movie made with the purpose of getting butts in seats. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those types of movies, in fact, some of them can be quite good. However, when it comes to the story of arguably the greatest rock band and rock frontman to ever grace a stage, that’s when you run into problems. The story of Freddie Mercury, and by extension Queen, is one fraught with turmoil and personal tragedy. The film attempts to pay respects to that, but it can’t delve too deep into that because that would make people very uncomfortable and would not accomplish the “getting butts in seats” part of the equation. It can never go as far as it needs to, so every scene dealing with Freddie’s sexuality, his complex relationship with Mary Austin, or really anything to deal with Freddie personally just comes off as bland and inoffensive. On top of that, the script has about as much subtlety as a jackhammer to the skull, spoonfeeding the audience every little thing without letting them figure things out for themselves. It’s one of those movies where the characters tell you how they’re feeling instead of letting you infer, because a lot of the butts in the seats need that kind of thing. I find it endlessly annoying and it takes me out of the experience.
It became clear to me quickly that this film is a bit of a cash grab. Due to the movie’s release and the fact that it’s chock full of their greatest hits, a lot of the Queen songs featured or mentioned in the movie have surged in popularity onto the charts once again. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but it’s clearly the entire point of the movie. Nearly every scene seemed to be bookended by a song. In a scene that takes place prior to the formation of the band, even Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love plays loudly over the radio.
It isn’t all bad, though. The movie shines when dealing with the creative process of the band and the infighting between themselves and executives. Watching the band negotiate with Ray Foster and then produce their magnum opus was a treat. However, if the film was going to settle for a boilerplate, water cooler version of Freddie (which it did), then it should have put much more focus on the band drama and their creative process instead of relegating Bohemian Rhapsody to what was essentially just a really cool montage. Love Of My Life, Another One Bites The Dust, and We Will Rock You all get interesting, but entirely too brief scenes. But all of these were captivating enough to hold my interest the entire time.
My absolute favorite part, though, was Rami Malek’s performance. (If y’all aren’t watching Mr. Robot, why?) It was like watching Freddie himself. He is a brilliant actor and I’m hoping he’s Hollywood’s next golden boy. If nothing else, this is the part of the film that deserves recognition. His mannerisms were spot on and the Live Aid sequence, aside from the annoyingly shoddily copy and pasted crowd of thirty people spread out to look like a million, was a sight to behold. I’ve watched the actual concert at least five times, and Rami nailed everything, it was very impressive. All of the band members were great, and Mike Meyers was actually a pretty funny inclusion, I thought.
Bohemian Rhapsody is objectively an extremely flawed film. Even with those massive flaws, however, I still enjoyed many parts of it. I wouldn’t say I regretted seeing it, but I probably won’t see it again. If it wasn’t for a brilliant performance, I would have liked it a whole lot less. Due to the fact that this review is admittedly somewhat muddled and it was very hard to write, I’ve added a score. I may go back and do that to the rest of my reviews for consistency’s sake.
P.S. If you are at all interested in checking out more of the band’s library beyond the basics, I highly recommend the entirety of Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack, they’re great.