Kirese Narinesingh reviews Bryan Singer’s highly anticipated Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.
Considering the overwhelming hype surrounding this musical biopic of legendary band Queen and its centrifugal lead singer Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody does not live up to expectations, revealing itself to be, more or less, underwhelming.
The film’s premise suggests an in-depth look into the rise of Queen and its subsequent struggles, as well as a celebration of its artistry and unique vision. The film is undoubtedly enjoyable – especially for hard-core Queen fans who would find appealing both its insight into the creative genius of the band, and the nostalgic accompaniment of its hits. However, Bryan Singer’s depiction never fulfils the promise of this aforementioned premise.
The direction seems to be lacking in inspiration, favoring style over substance. The first half of the movie covering the band’s journey to stardom is found wanting, with the editing reflecting this. It is muddled, fast-paced and ultimately forgettable – we are not immediately drawn in, possibly because of this sense of being rushed. We are never allowed a sense of wonder or fascination at the band’s beginnings and subsequent growth. This includes scenes where we witness the creation of their hits. They are enjoyable to watch, yet too brief to engross us completely.
Although the second half improves on this, the film never truly satisfies. It never fulfils its dramatic potential nor reflects the flamboyancy that characterized Queen and cemented its place in musical history.
It also never goes deeper than surface level, never dares to venture into Mercury’s lifestyle nor tackle the reality of the AIDS that afflicted him, instead relying on quick, expressionless scenes that convey this only briefly. And thus, it never manages to achieve authenticity, in the way that Bradley Cooper’s musical drama A Star is Born does. We are never immersed into the plot, most likely owing to the flawed direction, and the film suffers from this lack of intimacy with its subject matter.
Yet the movie is a box-office success. How is this possible? Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury saves the show. It is so fascinating, how chameleonic he is, that we forget that he is not the mercurial frontman himself. He is almost a doppelgänger of Mercury, in part due to the makeup, of course, but more importantly because of his charisma and actions, which are tantalizingly reflective both of the diva-like, expressive on-stage figure of Freddie Mercury, and the hidden, isolated artist behind the curtain.
This film is a testimony to Malek’s talent; every movement is reminiscent of Mercury. He effectively portrays both the exuberant behavior adding the necessary nostalgic element to make the film appealing to Queen fans, as well as the struggle with loneliness heightening the film’s tragic nature as we see the fall of an immensely talented, but tortured artist.
While the film does some justice to Mercury, it does not, unfortunately, do the same for the rest of the band, thereby contradicting the film’s attempt to persuade us of the importance of each one of Queen’s members. Instead, the film ironically reduces them to one-dimensional characters shunted aside to make room for Mercury. In fact, it is all too easy to forget that the film is not supposed to be about Freddie Mercury, but rather Queen itself.
From this, we see that the film regretfully lacks a coherent focus, a vision. Bohemian Rhapsody overly relies on the entertainment factor of the group’s hit songs and is unable to fulfil what it promised to deliver: a celebration of Queen, showcasing its extravagant and creative eccentricity, and willingness to deviate from formula – incidentally, all things found lacking in this film.
Featured Image Credit: The Detroit News