Bohemian Rhapsody follows the rise, and rise of Queen. An influential and world wide popular band from the seventies and eighties. It focuses mainly on the life of the lead singer, Freddie Mercury, who is an immigrant to England and feels out of place everywhere he goes, until he meets 3 other misfits who show him how much standing out will have the world wanting to be him.
Let me start this review by saying that while I like the songs I’ve heard of Queen, I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of theirs. As in, I’m not familiar with a lot of their songs bar the most popular ones, I’m not too familiar with the history of the band at all, and vaguely knew about Freddie Mercury’s past.
Let’s start off with the absolute best part of this film, the cast. All the band members are cast excellently, they have their real-life counterparts mannerisms and personalities down perfectly. Rami Malek at times is especially phenomenal, but there were some times where either his accent slipped, or he did something that reminded you, what we were watching was someone pretend to be Freddie Mercury, but all the credit to him, most of the time, he is genuinely believable as Freddie.
One performance issue was Mike Myers as music mogul Ray Foster. When he first appeared on screen with bad makeup, and a very dodgy accent, that sounded like an Englishman trying to do a general American accent. Then when he next appears, it became very apparent that Ray Foster was played by Mike Myers doing an awful impression. While it was nice to include him in the film due to his past history with the titular song, it was extremely jarring.
Even the scenes involving him, barring a few good moments, often boiled down to slapstick comedy or crap jokes. The film would have worked a lot better if you removed the heavy handed comedy elements and kept the tone more serious, only allowing Queen to have the funny moments, instead of a guy that is holding them back.
The films pacing was brilliant, as soon as the film started to hit a lull, the action, so to speak, would pick back up with the best scenes in the film, when Queen record their songs. Every scene of them recording a new song was filled with frantic energy, the whole thing felt very kinetic, one idea would flow into another, then another, then the editing would cut in, cutting and splitting the screen with the songs.
These scenes gave the film life and, almost like a thriller, get your heart pumping and on the edge of your seat just waiting for the completed version to be performed on stage. The energy while recording their songs would build and build until it reached its peak and the energy was released in a stage performance that, following such great moments in the recording studio, oftentimes than not felt anti-climactic.
When the film wasn’t focusing on a recording session, or a stage performance, the editing would feel flat and lifeless. Considering Freddie was the opposite of those, they really should have added more flare throughout the whole film. It’s in these moments where Freddie’s personal relationship develop and the audience is taken on a journey of self discovery along with Freddie.
Where the editing is boring, so is the story, it’s a very clean and family-friendly telling of Freddie’s story. There are hints and subtle mentions of some of the more darker parts of his life, but the film refused to walk down that alley and explore his illness.
The Live Aid performance, which is the climax of the film, is breathtaking. Seeing a flood of fans all at Wembley Stadium singing and clapping along to the performance was almost contagious. Some of the lyrics especially, having been shown Freddie’s life so far, pack a real emotional punch and Malek was perfect throughout the concert.
The energetic and vigorous editing and performances return and it’s shared with thousands of Queen fans. It feels theraputic for Queen, Freddie, and the audience.
The main problem with the film, besides being flat when not recording or performing a song. Is that the narrative is extremely weak, flimsy and often missing. It sometime feels like the scenes between recording the songs are just there to increase the run time of the film. There’s no story. Here’s the recording of Bohemian Rhapsody, here’s the band arguing. If the arguments ever lead to any real conflict, it wouldn’t be so bad but it just meanders until the next song hits.
Turning Freddie himself into the antagonist didn’t work at all, the Freddie we were introduced to in the film is not someone who’d betray his only true friends, his family. So it really felt forced, especially so since he never left Queen in real life, as he stayed with them while also recording his solo projects. However, one good side of this is that it lead to a great scene before the Live Aid performance, that really embodied the heart of the band.