Bohemian Rhapsody: A Passionate Biopic That Plays It Too Safe
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
While watching Bohemian Rhapsody, I realized one thing; films like these don’t necessarily cater to the legends they deal with. Rather, they try to recreate the emotions one experiences when watching such bands perform live. Based on the journey and life of the renowned British rock band Queen and its legendary lead singer Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody brings alive the magic of their song of the same name. On screen, you feel the eccentricity, you soak in the free-spiritedness. But while this recreational tribute might appeal to those who merely want to experience the performance of the rock band, to those who expect a closer look at Mercury’s life and the struggles he faced, this film might come as a disappointment.
Set in 1970, the film follows the life of Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek) who was once a baggage handler at the Heathrow airport and takes us through his journey to becoming the legend, Freddie Mercury. From his initial days in the band, his engagement to Mary Austin, exploration of his sexuality to his grave illness, the film takes you through everything at warp speed. The film is a celebration of his legacy. The effect, Queen had on people and the reverberations, their smash hit Bohemian Rhapsody met with encapsulates the core of this film.
One of the first regrets anyone might have after watching the film is that it doesn’t really feel personal. In the sense that, it never gives you an insight into the life and struggles of the band or of the lead singer. As such, Biopics tend to have a narrowed set of target audience. So, a film like Bohemian Rhapsody will only drive the fans of the band to the theatres. This is why director Bryan Singer’s decision to focus on the band as a phenomenon disappoints you. Queen has already scaled to great heights. Their fans from all over the world are already familiar with the information one can find on the internet. But they come to see the film with hopes that they get to uncover the man behind the legend. Sadly, if you came to the theatres carrying such expectations, you will feel let down.
The director takes many shortcuts to tell Freddie’s story. He doesn’t resort to subtlety either. In five minutes, the film jumps from his life as a baggage handler to his success as the lead singer of Queen. From the beginning till the end, the director takes up a loud narrative that is too afraid to touch upon the truth. It plays it safe by sticking to information that is already easily available while never diving into the real truth behind matters. An accurate exploration of the truth could’ve been far more interesting than this passionate yet superficial account.
Somehow, Freddie’s struggles with his sexual identity and his battle with AIDS never feel real in the film. It is as though you are viewing a watered-down version or a PG version of the events that took place. This pattern of story-telling takes away from the realism of his journey.
Nevertheless, Bohemian Rhapsody provides plenty of entertainment through Queen’s live performances. Every time lyrics from their verses flash on the silver screens, you sit back and slightly forgive the flaws in the film.
As Freddie, Rami Malek delivers a smashing performance. He steps into Freddie’s shoes with so much charisma that when he performs you are taken back in time when the band was actually active. Malek captures Freddie’s vulnerability perfectly all the while encapsulating the eccentricity that drove him to fame. To put it simply, Malek channels his inner-Freddie by etching the rock god’s persona forever in your heart.
The costume department of the film deserves a special mention. From the wigs these characters sport to their clothes, everything is done with spectacular accuracy. The post-production effects are splendid too. Their Live AID performance, in particular, is staged remarkably well. The music manages to induce nostalgia but comes nowhere close to bringing alive the magic of the original band. Their efforts deserve a mention, nonetheless.
On the whole, Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t as smashing a hit as the single its named after, neither is it as legendary as the band it is based on but it serves merely as a reminder of what Queen once was as it gently takes us back to their timeless music.