Bohemian Rhapsody, helmed by X-Men director Bryan Singer, tells the partial tale of the famous band Queen and its lead singer Freddie Mercury, a bi-sexual man with unbreakable ego and charm, played exquisitely by Mr. Robot actor, Rami Malek. The rest of the film, on the other hand, is a generic and disjointed mess of a ‘bio-flick’ that doesn’t know what it wants to be, because it doesn’t go far enough with its subject material, thus leading to a film that is entertaining, but leaves you wanting for something more unique, like the band itself.
The film’s narrative feels like an formulaic expository English essay; it uses the base ideas and goes off and talks about how things complement the whole book. That’s the feeling Bohemian Rhapsody gives the viewer after possibly feeling engrossed by the story of Freddie Mercury, only to have 25-30 minute side tangents about the band Queen. There are several points in the movie where you see this. For example, you see the lowest point in Freddie’s life with him getting told he has AIDS, but we have to know how the band feels about it. Several points in the film feel like we have to see the band, when the film mostly acts as a tribute to Freddie’s life. I understand that most of Freddie Mercury’s life revolves around the band, but when the film focuses on his life, the viewer wants to see everyone in his life’s reaction to his problems. What do Mary, Jim Hutton, or his parents think about his AIDS? We barely see anything outside the band, thus not giving the film a firm idea to focus on.
However, with Freddie’s life, the film doesn’t go far enough. The stuff the film touches on feels like things you would read on a novel’s cover flap. As a viewer, I wanted to see more into Freddie’s drug addiction and sexuality. Instead, the film chooses to focus on the creation of Queen’s famous songs such as Bohemian Rhapsody or Another One Bites The Dust, and how Freddie’s life problems connect to them. These two conflicting types of stories make for an uneven film, tonewise. Both of these story directions could make equally great films on their own, but together feel completely wrong. In short, the film’s narrative feels inconsistent and doesn’t know what it fully wants to be.
The score, consisting of Queen’s amazing library, make some scenes worth the price of admission. The opening scene, introducing our protagonist, is underscored by Somebody To Love, and is fantastically shot and edited with tons of panning and up close shots, telling a story without much dialogue. However, like the storytelling, the score feels like it could’ve done something more to make the film unique. For example, in the beginning of the film before the conception of Bohemian Rhapsody (the song), Freddie plays parts of the opening piano section. In the song’s early stages, it’s sort of rough, but once he finds the idea to continue the song, it gets ‘perfected.’ I felt that the creative team could’ve made that an overarching theme, having the times he played the song get rougher as he descended into the problems he gathered over time, concluding in the Live Aid concert where the song’s instrumental is perfected, but the vocals were a bit choppy. However Freddie wouldn’t be worried about the rough vocals, because he fine with who he is. This would have emphasized the ‘being yourself’ themes the film tries to give to the viewers. The film, however, doesn’t use the music of Queen any better than in the opening scene.
The editing and direction of the film portrays the same ideas that the score does in that it has the groundwork for an interesting and visually interesting film, but overall doesn’t go far enough. Using the opening scene again as an example, the combination of a very stylized editing style with the use of the song Somebody To Love delivers an exciting tone to the film. However, we never see anything that tries to surpass that feeling in the film. You know you’ve done something wrong when a trailer for RocketMan, the Elton John ‘bio-flick’, looks more exciting and interesting visually than a movie about the most experimental band in history, and that trailer was shown before the film at my screening.
In terms of the performances of the actors, none of the supporting cast really stood out for me, they were all overshadowed by the presence of Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury. A performance that is thought provoacing and has a presence, similar to how people saw Mercury on stage. However when it comes to the intimate scenes between characters, that big presence is overbaring, which elevates those scenes in not-so good ways. These scenes should feel small and feel impactful due to the emotion, but Rami choses to bring Freddie’s starpower to these scenes and it just doesn’t work. Even though this is the low point of his performance, Rami Malek’s portrayal of Queen’s big star is memorable.Bohemian Rhapsody, in the end, becomes an entertaining by-the-numbers ‘bio-flick’ about a band known for being experimental. The film excels in its casting however fails to exceed in demonstrating what made Queen the band it is, or what made Freddie Mercury one of the greatest performers in history. Instead it feels like a clip-show of the band’s greatest hits, not wanting to go all out on what could become an interesting film.