By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Bohemian Rhapsody is a formulaic band movie that struggles to get Queen’s story off the ground in an original and captivating way, but the Live Aid finale almost makes the whole thing worthwhile – it’s that and Rami Malek’s stupendous performance that save this film.
Directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men) and starring Rami Malek as frontman Freddy Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the years between Queen’s inception and their iconic Live Aid performance in 1985.
It’s a film that tries to focus on Freddy Mercury himself, but never really feels idiosyncratic enough to warrant the ‘biopic’ label, nor does it cover much of the other band member’s lives either. Everybody gets only minimal coverage here. We know that Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor were there, and that’s about it.
Even the performances seem to be a bit off and that’s not necessarily the cast which includes Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor and Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon (yes, that’s the kid from Jurassic Park), but rather the script which rarely gives these guys anything to work with. Shame because they were anything but normal in real life.
It’s just so predictable. There’s even a scene where hot shot EMI executive played by Mike Myers (yes, he’s still around) says that combining opera with their signature rock music and thinking outside of the square was risky. Formula is good and it ‘works’. How ironic because that’s exactly what this film suffers from. An overabundance of formula.
Queen were such an extraordinary and indefinable band so it feels like a bit of a cop-out that this is what they came up with. Director Singer, who was fired at the tale-end of filming due to his unusual and reclusive behaviour, would rather play it safe and standard than get into the messy details, especially where Freddy is concerned.
At least Freddy’s arc is bit more noticeable than the other band members. We watch him go from baggage handler at London’s Heathrow airport to the flaming falsetto queen that we all know and love. There’s some time spent on Freddy’s personal life outside of the band, and how he was manipulated by record producers, managers and more, and there’s also a lot of time spent on his complicated relationship with wife Mary Austin, played by Sing Street breakout star Lucy Boynton. It’s interesting enough, but those expecting a more in-depth look at his final years, will be sorely disappointed.
Why didn’t we see more of Freddy’s life as a gay man? Why didn’t we see more of his struggle with AIDS? As disappointing as this is, perhaps it was too sensitive a topic for family and surviving band members to see? It just seems odd that an out gay director like Singer would choose to show so little of that side of his life, compared to everything else. Was it new director Dexter Fletcher that made it more ‘family friendly’? Either way, there’s a lot that happened behind the scenes here, and I doubt we will ever really understand what happened.
However, it’s not all like that. Seeing the band’s iconic Live Aid performance in IMAX almost makes you want to get up and dance in your seat. It’s a real spectacle and 100% worth seeing on the big screen, even if you’re not a Queen fan. Rami Malek has an unbelievable stage and screen presence, and it’s a shame that his performance is all that’s really holding this film up.
Bohemian Rhapsody ‘wants to break free’ so bad. See what I did there? 😉 But it just doesn’t. Queen fans will love it though. There’s enough music in there to keep them satisfied. I’d personally go and see it just for the Live Aid scene. It was wonderful.