Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody ★½

Sometimes critics are wrong, but that isn’t the case here. Also, critics are fans too, so take that into consideration before you rail against them.

This does an impressive job of only focusing on the “bio” part of “biopic,” demonstrating a steadfast determination to suck anything commonly needed in films (story, character, flow, pacing, etc.) right out the window. And man does it oftentimes succeed - the first half is an unequivocal trainwreck, barreling through the beginning of Queen with a hilariously unsubtle disregard for the actual story. I know some people have compared it to a Wikipedia page rundown, which is only inaccurate in the sense that it’s actually much more interesting to read the Wikipedia page than watch the first half of this film. Even later on, some of the only time we get of the band together consists of them coming up with their next big song. Believe me, it sounds more interesting here than it actually is on screen. You get enough of it after the first time: someone has a great idea, they start recording, smash cut to a snippet of a live performance. Rinse and repeat. Where is the actual story?

By the time the latter half of the film comes around, the relationships half-heartedly set up earlier are out of time to resonate. The final sequence at Live Aid is thrilling, but perhaps more so for Queen’s incredible music and real life set rather than the film itself. Re: AIDS, I’d feel better about its relative lack of prominence and the message surrounding it if the rest of the film were actually committed to a compelling exploration of any other interesting aspects of Mercury’s life/relationships. The fact that his diagnosis was by all accounts in 1987, yet the film decides to tie it into the 1985 Live Aid performance for some dramatic statement? The fact that Mercury wasn’t the first, nor only, band member to go solo? The fact that Mercury’s sexuality is reduced to nothing but a dirty sexual vice, especially as it relates to Paul Prenter’s characterization? The fact that there are very few positive portrayals of his sexual life throughout, such that each little moment amplifies the glossing over of that aspect of his life? The fact that there was no indication a moment of nonconsensual groping ever actually occurred? Fuck all of that so much, stop playing with people’s lives. This is not what creative liberty means. Sure, Mercury wasn’t necessarily defined by any one specific thing, but that isn’t an excuse for how surface level this depiction is.

This is just a poorly edited, poorly written mess that believes it can coast on goodwill for Queen and nothing else. And hey, sometimes it does. But we all do a better service to Queen’s legacy by listening to their music rather than watching something that barely musters the effort to even care.


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