Top critical review
Bohemian Rhapsody isn't the kingly biopic of Queen that it thinks it is.
29 October 2018
Bohemian Rhapsody isn't the kingly biopic of Queen that it thinks it is. Possibly the most frustrating cinema experience I've had all year. Why? Squandered potential. It's Queen. Quite possibly the biggest rock band to ever exist. Influential to millions. Idolised by thousands. The risks they took with their musicality and stage appearances were aspirational. And yet here we have a biopic that, whilst undoubtedly entertaining, just doesn't know what it wants to be. Chronicling the formation of Queen, Freddie Mercury rises to fame as their lead singer and soon starts clashing with the other band members. Malek singlehandedly saved this film. His performance was both transformative and engrossing, occasionally fully embodying Mercury's eccentric personality. The exaggerated false teeth did initially distract me, but these are diminished once the story starts to unfold. The other members were also well acted and certainly looked the part, particularly with the 70s hair styles. The whole plot intelligently culminates to the infamous Live Aid performance that shot Queen's reputation to stratospheric heights, which evidently is the greatest segment of this biopic. It allowed the music to come through and force Mercury's emotions to be conveyed through auditory senses. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is deservedly one of the greatest songs of all time, and just the Live Aid performance alone showed its importance to Mercury and the band. It wants you to sing along, it wants you to tap your feet to the beat. It's infectious. It will leave you wanting to listen to their other fantastic songs. The development beforehand was well paced, nuanced and enjoyable to watch. However, there are two huge detriments to this biopic that lead to an underwhelming result. Bryan Singer's direction and McCarten's screenplay.
Singer is unsure what angle to use to portray Mercury. He had a big career, with personal failures equalling his musical successes. Yet Singer attempts to balance the narrative with Mercury's life and what is essentially Queen's greatest hits. The two do not marinate seamlessly. Is it a Queen tribute? Or a Freddie Mercury biopic? Can it be both? Yes it can. But this is not substantial enough. The band has so much history and acute details that were glossed over in this film, ultimately feeling rushed. The time shifts range from a month to five years. Singer attempts to tackle too much, and it shows. In the first twenty minutes, they've already conceived their first album! That's ludicrous. Then we come to the screenplay. I'm sure Brian May and Roger Taylor's inclusion in this production somewhat hindered the telling of the band's history. It's completely sanitised. The often comedic dialogue juxtaposes the tonal shift of Mercury's eventual loneliness and battle with AIDS. There is literally a scene of Mercury contemplating the idea of conceptualising a solo career, only for the proceeding scene to joyfully create 'Another One Bites The Dust'. The script tries too hard at being a crowd pleaser, that the more important issues are diluted and consequently forms a tonal shift. Sure it allows Malek to show off his acting ability, but at what cost? There's no emotional resonance. Nothing feels memorable. It's a shame, as this could've been an excellent biopic. However the mediocre directing and script really hindered the emotional investment required to make this a successful trip down memory lane. It's a biopic that general audiences will enjoy, it's just not the biopic I wanted.