500 Days Of Film Reviews Bohemian Rhapsody Starring Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton And Gwilym Lee
Bohemian Rhapsody charts the remarkable life of charismatic singer, Freddie Mercury, and legendary rock band, Queen, from the band’s formation to their incredible appearance at 1985’s Live Aid concert.
Is It Any Good?
I was lucky enough to see Queen live at London’s Wembley Stadium during their It’s A Kind Of Magic tour. Despite being very young, I recognised the phenomenal power of the rock band’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury.
Mercury ignited the crowd and, since that concert, has been the standard by which I measure all live acts. Needless to say, few have come close to matching his vocal performance and on stage charisma.
As a result, I went into Bohemian Rhapsody feeling wary. How could anyone, even an actor as talented as Rami Malek, portray this rock legend? Surely, a documentary would have been a better way to approach this story?
The first few minutes of the film did little to ease my concerns. Don’t get me wrong, Malek is as good as it is probably possible to get - both in looks and mannerisms. It all just felt a little uncanny - both obviously Freddie and also obviously not Freddie.
However, before long, I became accustomed to Malek’s performance and, with some reservations, found myself thoroughly enjoying Bohemian Rhapsody. The band have wonderful chemistry (Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello give warm and endearing performances as Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon) and it is fascinating to see how some of Queen’s iconic hits were conceived.
Malek throws himself into this challenging role - lip syncing (with only an occasional jarring moment) to a selection of Queen’s most beloved songs. As the film moves into its final act and depicts the band’s performance at Live Aid, Malek is nothing short of electric.
Off stage, Bohemian Rhapsody explores Mercury’s lasting friendship with Lucy Boynton’s Mary Austin. Meanwhile, the film also portrays his relationships with men - including his manager, Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), who is very much the villain of the piece.
In Bohemian Rhapsody’s final moments we see Mercury face his AIDS diagnosis - an illness that would eventually claim his life aged just 45 years. It feels devastating knowing, as we do, how his story was to end.
However, Bohemian Rhapsody only really hints at the darkness in Mercury’s life. The film sanitises much of the more challenging or upsetting elements of the story, keeping to the shallow waters of a tried and tested biopic formula.
Meanwhile, key events are gathered together for convenience, making the film feel (because it is) ridiculously contrived. The storytelling is also painfully obvious - particularly in some of the music choices and there is also an awful nudge, nudge gag involving the movie’s titular song and Mike Myers’s EMI exec, Ray Foster.
Everything is played far too safe - especially when you consider the complicated man Bohemian Rhapsody is depicting. The film is entertaining and enjoyable but doesn’t scratch the surface of Mercury’s remarkable life.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a pure crowd pleaser of a movie and unashamed to be so - a film that knows its strengths (and its audience) and understands that its weaknesses will be forgiven by the addition of another of Queen’s iconic, foot stomping hits.
As the credits roll, we see footage of the real Freddie and it comes as something of a relief. There you are at last, I thought. For as brilliant and committed as Rami Malek undoubtedly is, there can be only one Freddie Mercury.
Bohemian Rhapsody had a very troubled journey to the big screen. The film saw changes of lead actor and director before Rami Malek was cast and controversial figure, Bryan Singer, took the helm. However, he was later fired and Dexter Fletcher was brought in to finish the movie. Despite this, the film feels of a piece.
Have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody?
If you have, what did you think of this film? Let me know in the comments section below or via Twitter. You can find me @500DaysOfFilm.