‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ | Film Review

Getting pumped about a music biopic on this high of a level is a bit uncanny. Because if it’s about a certain subject, that’s easily a buy. That’s why the long-awaited Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” is sure to be talked about. Can one of my most anticipated movies of the year hit a high falsetto note and rock us, or bite the dust early on? Let’s find out.

What’s the Story: This follows the life and celebration of frontman Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) and his band Queen, one of the most influential British bands in history, where it tracks through the rise of the band’s fame in their success of the music while focusing on Mercury’s personal life before the Live Aid concert.

Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, and Ben Hardy in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

As someone who always loves the rock genre, I’m not shy to say Queen is one of my favorite bands of all-time. I’ve been in love with their music for as long as I can remember and it’s how they changed the way music sounded in different genres without feeling tired out. And that was because of Mercury (1946-1991)’s astonishing vocal range as why I believe he’s the greatest frontman to ever live.

Many fans have been waiting years for a biopic about them and the legendary frontman, but this took a long time for this movie actually happen because of some setbacks. For starters, Sacha Baron Cohen was originally cast as Mercury but left due to creative differences. Then came the controversy last winter as director Bryan Singer (“X-Men”, “The Usual Suspects”) was fired by Fox for clashing with Malek and the crew and not showing up onset after Thanksgiving break. So, the studio hired Dexter Fletcher (“Eddie the Eagle” and the upcoming “Rocketman”) to complete filming though Singer gets the sole directing credit due to DGA rules and Fletcher receiving an Executive Producer credit.

As this was coming close to its release date, I was surprised to see that this was getting mixed reactions with some loving it and calling it one of the best movies of the year, while some kind of hated it. With that being said, I loved the trailers and walked into it hoping to be in the minority when it comes to this. And without being bias, “Bohemian Rhapsody” doesn’t turn to be one of the best movies to comes out this year, as it has its fair share of pros and cons I need to explain.

Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek, and Ben Hardy in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

First off, everybody has been praising the performance Malek gives as Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara, and they aren’t wrong. He dominates this role that he honestly disappears without a blink of an eye. I got to commend the “Mr. Robot” star for almost feeling like the legendary singer in the way he talks, sporting the prosthetic teeth and the unique mannerisms that are associated with the late, shy and flamboyant singer. Every scene he’s in elevates nearly all of them what’s supposed to be a flawed, yet engaging man.

Then you also need to include the rest of the band members as you got Gwilym Lee as Brian May, lead guitarist, Ben Hardy (“X-Men: Apocalypse”) as Roger Taylor, drummer and Joseph Mazzello (“Jurassic Park”) as John Deacon, the underrated bass player. The band connection feels safe even if at times it doesn’t feel like much are given their personalities. But all of them looks so much like their real-life counterparts.

Lucy Boynton (“Sing Street”) plays Mary Austin, Freddie’s girlfriend and she plays an integral part in his life before he turns out bisexual. In real life, they had a pretty friendly relationship before his death. She’s beautiful and gave a terrific performance as well.

You go into a movie about Queen and you expect to hear some of their greatest hits for what made them famous in the first place. Most of the classic songs are played and performed throughout and it’s one of many bright spots. Seeing them record or come up with the idea of some of the music like the film’s title was one of my favorite moments. Once they played “Another One Bites the Dust”, I was tapping my foot (quietly) because of that sick beat. And it’s to believe Malek had mixed his own voice with Marc Martel when he’s singing. Challenge: Try not to sing loud out at any given moment.

Image: Bohemian Rhapsody

And here’s where “Bohemian Rhapsody” might tip the scale for some people, including myself. The one fear going into this was thinking that this won’t end up having a conventional storyline. In reality, this is pretty much a by-the-numbers biopic, and some can get over it, but it doesn’t fully work for the hardcore fans. Writer Anthony McCarten (“The Theory of Everything”) didn’t adapt this from an autobiography, so it’s hard to tell if anything’s real or not since it felt unfocused and almost rush in its first act in its events taken place.

Fans would see some moments that aren’t accurate. I didn’t know everything about the band upon walking in, but I knew for sure that some things didn’t feel right, especially during the time period when “We Will Rock You” was created. For me, it didn’t work at all because most of what’s included in here mostly weren’t true.

They can’t get everything in over two hours, and that’s not to say this should’ve gone for a much darker story, but there’s so much about Freddie’s life that should’ve been included in those 15-years. Most complained from the teaser that it would gloss over his sexuality and his AID’s diagnosis. It doesn’t. However, it wasn’t executed well enough to give us more time for at least one of them.

If I was the writer for this, this script should’ve gotten a polish and include more information than what we got here. Taylor and May were involved in the movie as they were consultants and serve as executive music producers. So, you have to wonder how they wanted to interpret their vision of the story.

The relationship between Mercury and Paul Prenter (Allen Leech, “Downton Abbey”) just bothered me as he was his personal manager who wanted the best for him. Made out to be the villain, he bogs the movie down every time he appears just making me question what does Freddie see in this guy? Let’s just say he’s the Yoko Ono to Freddie’s John Lennon.

And we also have an unrecognizable Mike Myers making an appearance as EMI record executive Ray Foster, and he was awful in the scenes he’s in. His purpose is to tell Queen that nobody’s gonna listen to their songs and thinks “Bohemian Rhapsody” is too long and wouldn’t release it as a single. The worst part is, this is a fictional character created solely for the movie. Unnecessary and embarrassing for him. Was he put in this role because of the iconic scene in “Wayne’s World” where he headbangs to the song?

As much as I don’t like Singer, his direction is hit-and-miss. Sometimes it comes off electric with the concert material, while at times it doesn’t seem like he knew how to tell the story in a flowing way. But you couldn’t tell what scenes Fletcher directed and what he did. At least we actually have a finished project.

But even if you hate this, there’s no way of not enjoying the Live Aid Sequence, taking place in 1985 and where the third act takes place. Reported as the best music moment in history, that entire sequence saved the movie as it was entertaining and exciting seeing them re-create that phenomenal performance 33 years ago and they blew everyone away. Such a bummer that I was born 11 years after because I would’ve loved to see history unfold.

Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, and Ben Hardy in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Perhaps this won’t get any attention from the Oscars, there’s one question that needs to be asked: Does Maleck has a chance to get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor? His performance was outstanding, but it would’ve been ignored by the other actors in the category. It’s essentially a dark horse pick at this point.

As a massive Queen fan, I wanted to love “Bohemian Rhapsody” and put this in my best list thinking it was gonna be 2018’s “Straight Outta Compton”, and it left me conflicted about what unfolded. It does serve as a tribute to the lead singer in a fashion that a majority would enjoy. And yet, this is something I can re-watch in the future to see if my opinion changes. So, despite a messy script and disappointing direction, it’s honestly still something to recommend if you are a Queen fanatic and wanna have a good time.

Top 10 Queen Songs:

  1. “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  2. “Somebody to Love”
  3. “We Will Rock You/ We Are the Champions”
  4. “Another One Bites the Dust”
  5. “Don’t Stop Me Now”
  6. “Under Pressure”
  7. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
  8. “Love of My Life”
  9. “I Want to Break Free”
  10. “Spread Your Wings”

Bohemian Rhapsody felt uneven due to the basic story and some inaccuracies, but it’s Rami Malek’s energetic performance as Freddie Mercury and the catchy music to save this biopic from derailing.

Grade: C+

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