Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

If you read the synopsis for Bohemian Rhapsody, it describes a biopic about the British rock band Queen. Truthfully, it’s a film about Freddie Mercury featuring Queen.

The film follows Mercury, played by Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek, through his journey from airport employee to one of the biggest rock stars in the world. The story opens with Mercury and the other Queen members meeting in college and takes the audience on the journey as they’re making their first record, touring the world, and the story culminates with Queen’s iconic 1985 Live Aid performance.

Bohemian Rhapsody suffers from what a lot of biopics suffer from – there’s entirely too much content for one movie. If the film was an in-depth look at Queen, it would’ve been 4 hours long – the band made music for over 20 years. In lieu of that, the film is a greatest hits style movie. The story goes from one high point to the next with a few low points in between. It stays on the surface while providing a lot of queen music and an iconic Freddie Mercury performance.

The best part of the film is Rami Malek’s performance. He has all of Freddie’s mannerisms and speech patterns down perfectly. Malek masterfully shows Mercury as an egotistical rock star and as someone who is hurting and hurts others in the process. It’s not easy playing someone as beloved as Freddie Mercury and Malek does him justice. For people unfamiliar with Malek’s work, this will be their introduction to one of the most talented young actors in Hollywood.

As enjoyable as Malek’s performance is and as much fun as it is listen to Queen for two hours, the film stumbles to the finish line. Watching the convoluted way Freddie and the group come up with songs is laughable. Those seems are meant to be cinematic, but they look like scenes from a made for TV biopic. The writers also take liberties with Freddie’s HIV diagnosis. The ending of the film has the group come together for the Live Aid performance. As they get closer to do the date, Freddie learns he’s HIV positive and discloses it to the other band members. In real life, Freddie didn’t find out until 1987.

Despite all of its issues, Bohemian Rhapsody is enjoyable from beginning to end. Malek and the music make this story 10x more enjoyable than it has any business being. It’s a paint-by-numbers biopic that plays it safe for two hours. It never delves too deep into Freddie’s sexuality or his relationships. It doesn’t even get into the craziness of being in one of the biggest bands in the world. It’s just a fun time with Freddie Mercury and Queen that takes you on a nostalgic ride through all of their greatest hits.

Grade: B-