Film in review: “Bohemian Rhapsody”


The Winonan’s film reporter rates this film 2.5/5 stars.

Josh DeLaRosa, Film Reporter

There are times in “Bohemian Rhapsody” where the god-like powers of Queen and its eccentric lead singer Freddie Mercury are on full display. This comes at a cost, however, as the film feels more like a highlight reel of Queen’s career and Mercury’s life, as opposed to an in-depth look into a band whose music continues to echo through pop culture and a man who continues to inspire up-and-coming artists.

In other words, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is not unlike anything that has been seen before, and this is unfortunate considering Mercury’s legacy deserves nothing less than perfection.

To start things off, lead actor Rami Malek quite literally becomes Freddie Mercury as the film jumps and skips through its 134-minute runtime. He’s introduced wearing obvious prosthetic teeth to match Mercury’s trademark overbite, and perhaps through his constant presence on screen or his ever-changing look, they become less apparent and more natural. Essentially, they become a part of him.

This runs parallel with Malek’s performance as well, as he goes from simply being an actor playing a role and transitions into a resurrection of the late, great singer himself. Malek captivates in every scene he’s in—even when he’s required to spout whatever preachy drivel the screenplay contains—so much so that one wishes the film explored Mercury’s life and struggles far more than it does.

Once upon a time, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was meant to be a more personal look at Mercury’s life and delve into the man so few got to see. Sacha Baron Cohen (yes, Borat) was originally cast as Mercury and the film was said to explore his more outrageous escapades. Pretty much exactly what one would expect from the likes of Cohen…

Unfortunately, producers and remaining Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor disapproved of this exclusive look at Mercury and wished to see more of the band as a whole, rather than a particular element.

With this knowledge in mind, watching “Bohemian Rhapsody” and witnessing their characters (played serviceably by Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy, respectively) berate Mercury for overshadowing their star indicates some unintentional resentment toward the man who made Queen what it was and what it will always be.

This feels like a film of compromise, where one side is fighting for Mercury and the other is fighting for May and Taylor (bassist John Deacon is portrayed as mostly impartial). Ultimately, and expectedly, it is May and Taylor’s side that emerges victorious, with Mercury eventually coming to realize his hubris. This is all well and good, but the resulting film doesn’t dive far enough into either side to really make an effective argument. Were Freddie Mercury alive today, he may have had a few choice words for his fellow bandmates for how they chose to present him on screen.

This all whittles down to director Bryan Singer’s vision for the film. It’s clear that May and Taylor are whispering their wishes into his ear, and then there’s the more artistic side of Singer who is encouraged by compulsion to make the film he really wants to make. This isn’t to say “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a mess, per se, or even a bad film; it just meanders from one scene to the next at a brisk pace without actually meditating on its characters.

The “highlight reel” approach to the narrative, as mentioned earlier, allows the film to feel shorter than it actually is, which wouldn’t be a bad thing were character work not sacrificed in favor of it.

Nothing new about Freddie Mercury, or Queen as a whole, is learned, and maybe it’s because of this that “Bohemian Rhapsody” suffers to rise above being just another biopic. For something so beautifully shot, extravagantly choreographed and briskly paced and with Malek’s scene-stealing performance, there is no reason this film isn’t more than what it ultimately is. 2.5/5