One of the films I was most excited for this year was Bohemian Rhapsody. The film is a biopic on the lead singer of legendary rock and roll band ‘Queen’: Freddy Mercury; up to and including the band’s legendary performance at the Live Aid concert in 1985. Queen was a huge part of my life growing up. My Dad is a huge fan, so I’ve been exposed to the band since before I could speak. They mean a lot to me, so when I heard that Rami Malek, Elliot from Mr. Robot, was going to be playing the iconic front man himself, I was very excited. The film is executive produced by the surviving members of the band, and Rami Malek is praised by them along with critics; even tipped for the Best Actor award at the 2019 Oscars.
I can’t stress enough how biased I am when it comes to this movie (and, admittedly, most others). Queen is a big deal for me, and I went into this one with really high expectations, some of which were met and some of which were very much not. I thought Malek was exceptional in the role of Freddy Mercury; an opinion not shared with my parents. According to my parents, and some others with whom I’ve broached the subject, Freddy Mercury is actually ill-portrayed in this film. By most accounts, Freddy was a generally more reserved character when he was off stage, needing the fuel of alcohol and drugs in order to transfer his on stage behavior to his personal life. I don’t know to what extent I can speak with expertise here; I didn’t know Freddy. People who were in Freddy’s personal life attest to a faithful portrayal, but I guess this is one of those instances where we can’t really know. Make no mistake, Malek is incredible in the role of a diva, but the question remains unanswered as to whether or not the writing of the film is true to the man. Other performances are very strong, including the other members of the band, and, most notable in my opinion, that of Lucy Boynton, who plays Mary. Ms. Boyton, who portrays a character called Rafina in one of my favorite movies of all time, Sing Street, is very strong in the role of Mercury’s unfortunate wife before his sexuality was revealed. Their relationship is one of the brightest parts of the film.
To be frank, the way they’ve weaved some of the music into the film is below average. The touring montages are uninspiring, and some of the songs they’ve chosen to either omit or absolve of emotional responsibility are equally annoying. Under Pressure is featured for about ten seconds. Somebody to Love is heard in the opening twenty, and never heard of again. Crazy Little Thing Called Love isn’t in the film, period. Live Aid is replicated well, almost to the gesture. I got goosebumps during We Are the Champions. Malek’s performance during the whole sequence is quite obviously intended to repeat the event to the tee, something which he succeeds in doing to strong effect. I can’t get over the fact that they decided to put the lyrics of each song at he bottom of the screen in karaoke style. Subtitles would have been totally fine, I’d have had no issue, and for that matter the rest of the film is subtitled. It gets annoying when you make the letters bold and make them pink as they’re said.
This film is superbly well written for the most part. Some argue that the wittiness and quick humor of the film underscores the lack of faithfulness in representation, and while they might not be wrong, it’s enjoyable to watch and hear. The problem in the writing, and it’s a little bit of a big deal, is the pacing. As per the film, Queen went from playing pubs and colleges to touring America in about ten onscreen minutes. People argue that this was done intentionally, skipping over Queen’s journey to focus on Freddy Mercury’s journey. Even if this is the case, it doesn’t come across at all well. There are a few scenes that don’t suffer from this problem with pace. There are a few examples of first class scenes; most of the scenes between Freddy and Mary, all of the scenes that take place in either the producer’s or manager’s offices, and all of the songwriting scenes are examples of absolute highest quality work from cast and crew. If they had maintained a slightly more consistent level at that point, it could’ve made a much better film.
Aman’s Rating: /100 Aryamaan’s Rating: N/A