Quick Hit: A stellar performance by Rami Malek is at times lost by a paint-by-numbers plot.
It may sound like a bandwagon decision, but I actually really like Queen. I discovered them (like most people probably) in my teens, shortly after I performed a deep dive into the Beach Boys and the Beatles. They had a sound that was both reminiscent of those bands, and yet totally different, with different sounds merging to create something new. A big part of that is Freddie Mercury’s voice – it’s got an extremely unique sound to it that makes their music special. Freddie’s behavior also made the band special – he was a lead man like few that have come before, and it’s a joy to watch video of his old performances.
So Bohemian Rhapsody, despite its issues (I’ll get to those in a minute) is a joy at times to experience, purely based on watching the development of Farrokh Bulsara into the man known only as Freddie Mercury. He is played by Rami Malek, and Malek is deserving of all the nominations he has been receiving throughout the circuit. His Farrokh is shy and slightly unassuming, and his teeth constantly show – as soon as he gets on stage, the real Mercury makes an appearance, and nearly never looks back. His mannerisms are well-captured, as are his stage movements – it all seems very real and Malek must have put in a ton of preparation. Only detraction was the lip sync at times.
The same cannot be said of the rest of Rhapsody, which instead proceeds to follow the standard of most biopics – follow them while they rise, watch them fall, watch them soar once more. That’s not to say the predictable plot is that much of a distraction – we as the audience get some stellar montages – but you would think the story of someone who was so influential in the musical industry would have found a way to be influential here as well. The story does a good job at establishing the relationship between Freddie and Mary, but somewhere along the line loses the thread, before ripping it back into tautness at the end of the film.
Really, I feel like this is the issue with the film – the middle act, though with some amusing montages of the creation of Rhapsody itself and a few other moments (Mike Meyers makes an appearance as Ray Foster, a man who dismissed Bohemian Rhapsody as overlong) worth your time, instead craters out as the movie goes along. Even the dialogue, which to this point has been average to above average, falls apart, leading to stilted lines like “this isn’t really our scene Freddie” while a band sits obviously uncomfortable. We don’t need to state what the obvious can see.
Fortunately, with the exception of one scene that takes place in the back of the limo, I think the acting is solid throughout. All the band members are given their own moments to shine and take it, and Lucy Boynton (of Sing Street) is wonderful at navigating the emotional roller coaster of the role of Mary. It’s some really good performances that thrust Malek’s even more to the highlight that was the Live Aid concert to end hunger in Africa, which I’ve watched Queen’s performance of numerous times. The film captures nearly the whole set of songs and is truly emotional – despite far too many shots of a CGI crowd reacting to Freddie singing.
With those taken out and a better second act, this film would have been a masterpiece – instead, it’s going to be a “B-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"