Anthony McCarten, Peter Morgan
Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilyn Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Archie Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Aaron McCusker, Maneka Das, Ace Bhatti, Priya Blackburn, Dermot Murphy
PG-13 for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
In what could best be described as a Hallmark Hall of Fame biopic of the week masquerading as a cinematic experience, Bohemian Rhapsody takes a lengthy period of celebrated band Queen frontman Freddie Mercury’s rise to prominence and his subsequent decline and boils it down to its barest essentials.
Rami Malek takes on the role of Mercury in a performance that has some very good moments, but feels underwhelming in several others. The furtive glances and the depressive silences don’t quite dig into the flamboyant singer’s personality. Malek nails most of the mannerisms and replicates his moves during key scenes, but the character is so thinly drawn that it feels barren.
These issues largely come down to the inconsistent and uneven writing that plagues the narrative. Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan have ambitiously chosen to cover a good portion of Mercury’s life, but have insisted on quick beats that minimize his importance and reduce the film down to a greatest-hits set list without digging into what made the band so influential.
Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t entirely gloss over the band’s significance or their brilliance and they certainly don’t ignore Mercury’s sexuality. Yet, the almost clinical look at his relationships, giving more credence to his relationship with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and less to his long term romantic involvement with Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker), is a disservice. To their credit, they do give a lot of screen time to the abusive and detrimental relationship between Mercury and Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), Mercury’s personal manager, which plays heavily into the breakup of the band itself.
For their parts, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joe Mazzello do fine work as bandmates Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon respectively. They really aren’t given much to do as the band itself seems like a background entity compared to frontman Mercury. This may be emblematic of how most people saw Queen, but the accomplished musicians that were an integral part of the band itself are unfairly marginalized.
Leech is superb as Prenter while McCusker is given too little to do. Boynton’s character development is anemic, which is perfectly symbolic of how superficial the entirety of the story is. This all goes back to the poorly written screenplay, which has to be mostly mcCarten’s fault as Morgan seems like a far better writer than this film would suggest. The rest of the film’s fault lies with the film’s director, Bryan Singer.
Mercury’s life wasn’t as rosily colored as Singer’s opus paints it. While it’s somewhat understandable to go out on a high note, such as the Live Aid concert at the end of this film, it also denies audiences a chance to understand the time Mercury lived in and the awful fate to which he was resigned.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a movie that misses solid opportunities to challenge the audience’s pre-conceived notions while painting a vivid, if superficial, portrait of one of history’s most compelling figures.
April 12, 2019