Hot Take: A crowd pleasing celebration of Freddie Mercury, his extraordinary talent and Queen, the band he fronted until his untimely death due to HIV/AIDS. It might not sit well with some how glossy this film appears but Rami Malek is amazing in the lead role and if he’s not a Best Actor candidate, I’m not sure who is.
Taken for granted is the level to which British rock band Queen was groundbreaking in the ’70s and ’80s. One thing Bohemian Rhapsody does well is remind the audience of their musical accolades. There’s another side of the tale, the life of eccentric front man Freddie Mercury, which gets attention but feels like maybe we’re not getting the full picture, at times. Some critics have called the biopic too safe and that’s a fair criticism. Holding a mirror up the Mercury’s life and times isn’t the film’s ultimate goal which may disappoint some audience members but others, especially the crowd I saw the film with on opening night, might just break out into applause and cheer along with some of the well done concert recreations peppered throughout the film. It’s also an amazing feature film breakout performance from Rami Malek, best known for his role as the main character in Mr. Robot. While the film is unlikely to make much noise come Oscar season, Malek should be written in permanent marker under the nominees for Best Actor right now as his portrayal of Mercury is one to remember.
The Bryan Singer directed film takes the audience through the career of Queen with a focus on Mercury and his life and times as a man fighting with his own sexuality while being one of the biggest rock stars in the world as the group’s front man. If you’re unfamiliar with the Queen (and Mercury) story, the film gives you enough to want to learn more about the band and it’s mercurial lead singer. For those well versed in the Queen mythology, the movie might not dig deep enough below the surface to satisfy the more ardent of fans who wanted a more insightful and clinical breakdown of Mercury’s arc.
For what it’s worth, Bohemian Rhapsody was one of the best times I’ve had in the theater this year. As an admitted sucker for any film driven by soundtrack, this film is right up my alley even if there’s a level of shine applied to the film that softens the trials and tribulations Mercury dealt with in the spotlight while trying to manage his personal issues privately. It’s near impossible to do so and the film makes light of that but it’s more of a cursory look at it all (with enough factual errors to take issue with, too) which will lead some to argue there’s a better movie here. Another possibility, though, is there’s just a different movie here than the one Singer chose to make.
When it comes time to predict who will win Best Actor, you want to be informed enough to make the decision.
In your opinion, Freddie Mercury deserves more than a “by-the-numbers” biopic.