Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Bohemian Rhapsody poster.pngDirector: Bryan Singer
Running Time: 134 Minutes
Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Holland, Allen Leach, Mike Myers, Aaron McCusker, Dermot Murphy, Meneka Das, Ace Bhatti

Part-way through this film, Freddie Mercury describes Queen as a group of misfits, playing to all the misfits out there. It's a point intended to highlight how far from the norm they are, as they refuse to play it safe and churn out more of the same thing just for monetary gain. Ironic how the filmmakers didn't take this to heart, leaving a tale so cookie cutter, that it feels interchangeable with the rest of the musical biopics out there.

A baggage handler working at Heathrow, Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek) intends to pursue his passion for music, and finds an opening when Brian May and Roger Taylor (Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy) lose their lead singer. With the addition of John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello), Farrokh becomes Freddie Mercury, and the group rise to fame as Queen, but Freddie finds the pitfalls which come with fame.

With the numerous resources on-hand, and even original members of the band involved, it should be a slam-dunk to deliver a comprehensive and detailed look into such an iconic group. However, the final product gives off the impression that skimming a Wikipedia page was the most in-depth research made by screenwriter Anthony McCarten. Early portions of the band are sped through at breakneck speed, as though the film's trying to make a supersonic man out of the viewer. Rather than get a feel for Freddie prior to his musical career, he's a baggage handler for one scene, and joins the band less than five minutes later. There appears to be more interest in making heavy handed hints towards the most well known aspect, such as a familiar melody played on the Piano, or Mike Myers declaring nobody would play Queen. It's worth mentioning there's also numerous historical inaccuracies, but it can be argued this is part and parcel with taking a real life tale, and making it cinematic enough for a biopic.

When it comes to the important relationships, plenty of time is spent with Mary Austen, the person Freddie would dub the love of his life, but we barely see Jim Hutton, his life partner whom he spent his final years with. For such an important figure in Freddie's life, it feels ridiculous to largely relegate him to text in the epilogue. But the big question coming into this film was how Freddie's sexuality would be handled, and the answer is "poorly". A wink at a guy here, a suggestive gaze at a trucker there, it's barely touched upon until Freddie reaches the biopic cliche, of the descent into hedonism. While his band-mates are depicted as having outgrown the lifestyle, choosing to to take care of their families, Freddie is seen to be hosting extravagant parties, and said to be doing drugs. It's rather jarring to not touch upon such an important aspect until it's lumped in with self-destructive aspects, as though the filmmakers are inviting viewers to tut at him for all of the above.

Credit where it's due, the cast do good work in their roles, especially the members of Queen, but this is largely Freddie's story, and Rami Malek does a phenomenal job in portraying the lead singer. He embodies the born entertainer side of Freddie, strutting around the stage with such confidence and style, while also knocking it out of the park in the quieter moments. Vocally, there's no replacing him, and the best course of action was, understandably, to have the cast lip-sync the original tracks. Considering the bands back catalogue, it's a given that such an amazing assortment of songs would be on-hand, but despite that, Bryan Singers direction feels so lifeless. This is evident in the many band arguments, an assortment of inclusions which holds little weight, and often ends with them coming up with another hit song.

Sadly, it's also notable in the larger set pieces. Just recently, A Star Is Born began on stage at a concert, and you could feel the power held just from being there. This should be a given as it all builds to the famous Live Aid concert, but no such power, or even a little spark, are evident on there. What should mark the big, triumphant crescendo is delivered as a damp squib, and feels like an unfortunate cherry on top of a disappointing Sundae.

There's an interesting story to be made about Freddie Mercury, and his family of misfits who made up Queen. Sadly, Bohemian Rhapsody is too lacklustre and by the numbers to be just that. At the very least, it's worth seeing this on the big screen for Rami Malek's performance, and to hear Queen's terrific hits played on a great stereo system. but if you're after a terrific story, you're better off going to Wikipedia.

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