October 25th, 2018
MOVIE: BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
STARRING: RAMI MALEK; LUCY BOYNTON; BEN HARDY; GWILYM LEE
DIRECTED BY: BRIAN SINGER
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
Sadly, Bohemian Rhapsody is the worst kind of biopic. It leaves you entertained by the final moments and fails to entertain you with anything prior to it. This is a paint-by-numbers telling of the rock band Queen and their flamboyant front man Freddy Mercury. It’s not all bad news, the performance from Rami Malek as the mustachioed crooner is as spot on as one could hope, it’s just that everything else around him is a glossy product geared towards getting audiences to listen to more Queen. You could do that at home right now with Spotify and you wouldn’t need to sit through the standard rock star rise and fall narrative.
There are worst sins in cinema that have been made, but doing things cliched for a flashy band like Queen is not the way I would have approached it. The screenplay from Anthony McCarten is mainly where the problems of Bohemian Rhapsody lie. It all begins oh so coincidentally with guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) losing one singer, only for Freddy to walk over and tell them, “Hey, I’m a singer.” The band finds a bass player and quickly they are a unified group touring the world. It’s from that moment on where everything Queen does is important and it’s mainly funneled through the lens of Freddy’s life.
Prior to Bohemian Rhapsody‘s release, there were a plethora of problems, exclusively the fact that director Brian Singer was fired midway through production and replaced by Dexter Fletcher. Whether that is the main purpose for the film’s shortcomings is debatable, but when Malek is on screen, Bohemian Rhapsody works. The other half of the narrative focus is on Mercury’s personal life, including his marriage to Mary Austin (Sing Street‘s Lucy Boynton), his issues with drugs and alcohol, his sexuality, and his eventual diagnosis of AIDS. All of these topics are often sanitized, shined, and wrapped with a pretty bow. Were it not for Malek’s efforts, which allows everyone to experience the bright life of Mercury through his performance, Bohemian Rhapsody would look like a direct to VH1 movie.
What is even more sad is how Rhapsody ends with an emphatic bang, which left me wanting more Queen. The film’s crescendo piece is Queen’s historic performance at Wembley stadium. With the magic of CGI to bring the crowd to life, with plenty of extra’s, and great music of hits such as “Radio Ga Ga”, the melodic “Love of my Life”, “We Will Rock You” and “We are the Champions”, it’s a cinematic rock concert experience. Audiences will leave the theater with a smile, sadly forgetting they had just wasted two hours prior to that scene.
At its best, Bohemian Rhapsody is Rami Malek’s center stage moment, proving how good of an actor he is. At its worst, this is just another run of the mill rock star biopic, in a world where a movie like Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story exists. I could continue, but not without mentioning that there’s a scene involving Mike Meyers in the role of record producer Ray Foster, who hilariously states “kids will never be banging their heads to Bohemian Rhapsody.” The joke relates back to that famous scene from the classic comedy Wayne’s World. It’s a really funny moment in Bohemian Rhapsody and I thought it totally worked…NOT!
Written by: Leo Brady