BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018) is a mixed-bag biographical film about Freddie Mercury, lead singer for Queen. It’s probably a pleasure for its fans, though delivering nothing particularly juicy and treating Mercury’s excesses with a light touch. For everyone else (like me, I like Queen but don’t love-love Queen), I can’t imagine it being more than “okay,” probably the worst response its creators, particularly Brian May, envisioned. Overall, though, it’s entertaining, and as a by-the-numbers biopic, I’m glad it wasn’t heavy-handed about Mercury’s personal life, that it never tried to force me as the viewer to feel anything. I like the band and its music, so for me, when the movie focused on that, it really shined.
The film broad-brushes a lot of history, starting with Mercury, an immigrant to the UK from India and being of Persian descent (which was something I enjoyed learning), chafes under his conservative father while going out to see bands at night. While checking out one band he likes, he finds out their lead singer just left, auditions on the spot, and bingo, he’s in. From there, they roar into stardom, making it all look remarkably easy, though it’s here where the movie and the portrayed Freddie (Rami Malek giving it 100%) really shine. The guy had serious balls, and everything he and the band did–from its music to on-stage performances–was over the top, in your face, and often revolutionary.
Meanwhile, Freddie comes to terms with being gay, flirts with debauchery out of loneliness, ends up snubbing his band mates only to find out he needs them to do his best work, and learns he has AIDS. This all leads the band to its legendary performance at Live Aid, where they stole the show.
The film is loving to Freddie, and very gentle, and in fact everything is treated with kid gloves. The film may be largely accurate about the essence of who Freddie was. But as with many other biopics, it doesn’t necessarily make a compelling story. I found myself looking forward to the next scene where the band comes up with the idea for a song, such as a bass riff for “Another One Bites the Dust” interrupting an in-studio argument, or the performances themselves. The Live Aid scene is a great recreation of an amazing moment in rock history, though it is punctuated with laughably saccharine “I’m loving and truly amazed by you” reaction shots by family, friends, and band mates.
So overall, I wasn’t wowed, but I was surely entertained. I give BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY a B major.