Here’s what’s interesting about director Bryan Singer‘s Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody”: it’s a film made by a fan for fans, critics be damned. This isn’t an insightful, in-depth look at the band and its superstar lead singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), but rather a foot-stomping celebration of greatest hits that will keep music lovers rocking along in their seats.
Queen was a band comprised of outsiders for outsiders, a group of four men who defied stereotypes and shattered convention to become one of the most beloved groups on the planet. When portraying such legends on screen, the casting needs to be perfect: and it is, from Malek down to core band members Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello).
There’s a serious criticism of Malek’s performance, which is as warranted as it isn’t. As brilliant an actor as he is, the entire film feels like it’s a long imitation of a famous dead person and his signature mannerisms. I have no intention of diminishing Malek’s screen presence (it is star making in the greatest sense, and he is phenomenal here), but even his impassioned lip syncing comes across as a bit disheartening when you consider the legend he’s impersonating.
There are plenty of problems, from the overall saccharine portrayal of Mercury and his inner circle to the sanitized, play-it-safe attitude that fills every frame. This becomes the main issue with the film: flashy musical performances are interspersed with dramatic moments that overshadow the hollow story grounding the project.
Many of Queen’s more infamous milestones are addressed, from their unabashed creativity in the studio while recording their 1975 masterpiece “A Night At the Opera” to their legendary parting of ways with EMI that’s “re-imagined” into a single record executive character called Ray Foster (Mike Myers). Other tidbits of Queen’s history are presented through a filter or entirely dramatized so much that you’ll be ready to hit Wikipedia as soon as the credits roll. There are many aspects of Mercury’s life that are left on the chopping block too. Early criticism that his homosexuality isn’t addressed in this film is pure bollocks. The film carefully presents his escapades in a tasteful way that keeps the film rated PG-13.
But will Queen fans care about the glaring omissions and missing chapters to the story? Not likely.
I’m a huge music lover and fan of Mercury, and I was quietly mouthing along to every song. I was smiling at the inspired in-jokes and misty-eyed when it was clear the end of Mercury’s story was near. My heart fluttered as the soundtrack blared classic hits like “Radio Ga Ga” and “Don’t Stop Me Now” as the fondest memories flooded over me. I want to go and re-watch this movie right now.
And that’s who this film is made for. Fans. This one is an all-around crowd pleaser that, much like Mercury himself, succeeds despite its flaws.