When it comes to iconic singer Freddie Mercury, fans the world over were treated to a beautiful voice (four-octave!) contained within a consummate showman. Mercury was destined to be a star and he did everything he could as the lead singer of Queen to ensure that. Queen was huge during the 70’s and although their fame dipped in the 80’s they were still popular enough to cement their place as rock icons. Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic about the wild and attention-grabbing singer, was gestating for years with the likes of Sasha Baron Cohen and David Fincher attached to the project. Its theatrical release sees Mr. Robot star Rami Malek as Mercury, with Bryan Singer (X-Men: Apocalypse) serving as director.

Working from a script written by Academy Award nominated Anthony McCarten (The Darkest Hour, The Theory of Everything), Bohemian Rhapsody is an outline of Mercury’s life, covering his college years when he first joined the band, up until Queen’s epic Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium. With a running time of 134 minutes, there wasn’t enough time to delve deep, which honestly is quite sad. Singer and McCarten chose to gloss over and highlight certain portions of Mercury’s life and, because they also opted to follow the musical biopic formula, it resulted in a homogenized version of the singer and band. In short, Bohemian Rhapsody is the movie version of a greatest hits album – it plays things safe by providing everything you already know and nothing you really want to know. And since biopics use artistic license to exaggerate some truths, there are plenty of events that didn’t happen the way they’re depicted here.

Singer and McCarten also missed an opportunity to shed light on the LGBT community. Mercury’s sexual orientation was constantly in question since he had a meaningful and lifelong relationship with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and later on lived with his boyfriend Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker). And since Mercury died due to complications stemming from AIDS, a biopic would’ve been the perfect opportunity to have Mercury champion this misunderstood group. Instead, Mercury remained largely asexual, which I saw as a slap in the face because his stage presence was clearly fueled by his sexuality. At the same time, Mercury wasn’t outspoken politically, so maybe Singer and McCarten wanted to honor that. Still, the glaring omission of this man’s persona hides a portion of the frontman’s essence, thus further reminding audiences that this is a bland and safe version of Freddie Mercury.

By opting to not get underneath the fingernails of Mercury’s life, this is a film I would normally eschew and wholeheartedly condemn. But with Rami Malek as Mercury, he is almost the sole reason why Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t complete rubbish. The Emmy winner nails Mercury’s mannerisms precisely – he even suggested and wore fake teeth to complete the look. Malek clearly studied, researched and rehearsed to perfect the role, because he knew that this wasn’t just any role, it was a real person whom millions know and love. At times Malek is Mercury, especially during scenes when Queen is performing. The rising star should be a lock for an Oscar nomination – it would be a shock if he’s not picked.

If nothing else, Bohemian Rhapsody is absolutely spot-on with Queen’s Live Aid performance. Regarded as one of music’s greatest live performances, Malek, along with Gwilym Lee (as guitarist Brian May), Ben Hardy (drummer Roger Taylor) and Joseph Mazzello (bassist John Deacon), replicated step for step Queen’s July 13, 1985 set. Everything those four rehearsed for shone through during that final act. That alone makes Bohemian Rhapsody worth watching. The problem is that one can catch the actual performance on YouTube. Still, they were able to recapture that energy and magic which, combined with Queen’s timeless music, can inspire and entertain everyone.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a classic example of a bad film with an amazing performance. Rami Malek is clearly that performer as he does well to capture and distribute some of what made Freddie Mercury a rock legend. I think Mercury would be happy with how he was represented, although everything else about this biopic pales in comparison.

3 stars out of 5


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