Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody ★★

Let me preface by saying that Queen is one of my favorite bands, and easily a contender for my all time favorite. I can’t deny that I went in with very high hopes to see a fully realized adaptation of their legendary career, with Rami Malek at the forefront parading in all of Mercury’s grandeur. What was given to us was a rather formulaic, definitely pandering work for a band that deserves so much more. It breaks my heart.

Rami Malek is undoubtedly the best asset this film has to offer: his mannerisms and his incredible sensuality and every stroke of his hip or pucker of his lip screams Freddie Mercury! Casting for every band member was essentially spot-on. The band dynamics were also a pleasure: interactions were (mostly) organic. Mercury’s final days (post-AIDS diagnosis) were handled with more care than any other period in the film, and it’s here that the film’s quality reached its peak. And, of course, the music is to die for. But elements like the great music and the band’s story are an obvious given when you make a biopic about Queen; the film itself, however, offers little to nothing of worth to their story.

In this, my experience with the entire film itself was (quite) rocky. Queen and Mercury’s personal stories are great in themselves, but I don’t believe that this experience does either justice. The first two acts have a pace that’s much too unbalanced. Dialogue often relies on the audience’s knowledge of Queen’s success, lauding itself for being so clever for delivering “subtext” that statements such as “NO ONE will play Queen” promise. I understand that some believed the band had no signs of a promising future, but these hamfisted lines prove obnoxious time and time again. 

There also seemed to be a lack of understanding on how to electrify the audience in each concert sequence. Songs are often cut quite short, and the direction is never bold in any of these performances. Horrid inserts plague the entirety of the Live Aid concert, sporting an over abundance of cutaways to a single spectator or a side character’s cheesy look of approval or a family member or a cat or a group of bar goers or essentially anything that isn’t Queen and the massive crowd. This was supposed to be the enhanced version of that legendary show, but I get way more chills from the available YouTube footage than the film due to my frustration with the incessant cutaways. Is it too much to ask to hold a great shot for more than 5 seconds? Every time I was reaching the point of being awestruck, my attention was quickly diverted: a product of shoddy editing and poor direction: things present throughout the film. These choices inadvertently soured what was supposed to elicit a high supply of emotion. It all seemed as mainstream and artificial as something like The Greatest Showman, and Queen is everything but such.

After much anticipation, I can’t say I was even remotely satisfied with Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s more of a product than a it is a worthy testament to Queen’s immortal legacy. Aside from a few glimmering moments of grandeur, elements of the filmmaking itself prove to be far from greatness. Rami Malek’s fantastic performance and Queen itself deserved something unafraid to take a few risks, something not attempting to reach and affect the widest possible audience. There still seems to be much of this story left untold and a boatload of untapped potential for a film centered around one of the greatest bands in history. Here’s hoping a Queen film made with more apparent passion comes around in the future.

The Golden Globes are nonsensical. The filmmaking on display here is very poor, even if it is centered around Queen.

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