How many of these reviews are going to start with “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” A lot I am willing to bet. The thing is, it’s a good way to start. Bohemian Rhapsody has been a highly anticipated film for many years. I remember back when they were considering Johnny Depp for Freddie Mercury. Then it was Sasha Baren Cohen. And then they announced Rami Malek, and a majority of the country went, “Who?” Rami Malek is mostly known for his work as the lead in the USA Network series Mr. Robot. He got his start in the Night at the Museum series, and has scene big screen time in Need for Speed and, most recently, Papillion alongside Charlie Hunnam. I think it’s safe to say that after November 2, 2018, people will definitely know who he is.
Named for Queen’s most successful song in their portfolio, Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of Freddie Mercury and how he rose from being a baggage boy at Heathrow, to a literal rock legend. We see how the band Queen was formed, how they got their name, how they made it big, and what made Queen… well Queen. Rami Malek delivers a powerful performance as the front man of the legendary band. For me, it started off a little shaky at first (coming from someone who is fan of Malek), but he quickly made the role his own and personified the late Mercury like no other can. Even Mercury’s own sister saw Malek in full costume and said, “There’s my Freddie.”
Not to downplay the rest of the cast. Rounding at the rest of the band is Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, and Gwilym Lee as Brian May. All delivered powerful performances in their own right, and the chemistry between the 4 actors is undeniable. Veterans Aidan Gillen (as John Reid) and Tom Hollander (Jim Beach) deliver in their supporting roles, as does Lucy Boynton, who played Mary Austin. If some of these names do not seem familiar, get ready to learn a lot of the background of Queen in their rise, fall, and then rise again. Also, Mike Myers makes an appearance for a fun cameo as Ray Foster.
Clearly a majority of the film’s score revolves around the band’s expansive portfolio. But it wasn’t just the in your face, obvious music that was there. They did a great job with subtle melodies or bars from the band’s repertoire hanging in the background of impactful scenes throughout the film. Sometimes you’ll miss it, sometimes it’s obvious, and sometimes it might just make you cry.
The story begins with Mercury meeting Taylor and May, and ends with the ever-famous Live-Aid in 1985. While the film is essentially a love-story dedicated to Mercury, I feel it may have left out the rest of the members of the band. We see May, Taylor and Deacon, but we know little about their outside lives other than fleeting statements about their wives and kids, and what they were studying in university prior to Queen taking off. It’s a shame because Queen was not just about Mercury. The film did a really good job stating this, showing how they all contribute, all support each other, and how they are all different. But the focus is still on one man. Queen, the rock band, is an entity. Not an individual. But, I understand the decision behind the path that was chosen. Mercury, to many, was the embodiment of Queen. I am just glad the movie did put out there that he didn’t feel that way.
All of that aside, this film was fantastic. I have been a fan of Queen since I was in diapers, despite a majority of the band’s career having taken place before I was born. It was good to see this story told on screen, though slightly dramatized at points. It was an excellent telling of the story, and people may learn a lot about Freddie Mercury, like his love of cats, and who the love of his life is. Unless you’re absolutely cold-hearted, expect to get goosebumps as you progress through the band’s rise to the top, and to laugh as you how they interacted and developed their music. The movie is not without flaws, but they are so minor that looking past them is easy. Enjoy the film. Enjoy the music. Rock on.
4.5 stars out of 5
Second review by Michael Newman
Sitting in the movie theater waiting for Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic of Freddie Mercury as the front man for the legendary band Queen, was much like attending an epic rock concert. The anticipation of the moviegoers who had come to see the film by 20th Century Fox featuring Rami Malek as the iconic lead singer could be felt throughout the theater. A hush fell over the audience when the 20th Century Fox logo appeared with a guitar riff of the familiar studio opening and then we were transported to the start of the historic 1985 Live Aid concert. This is where the story begins (and ends) and it was the perfect way to start the tale of Queen’s incredible journey from humble beginnings to superstardom.
Rami Malek’s portrayal of the eclectic and often misunderstood Freddie Mercury was absolutely outstanding. His uncanny resemblance to the singer in both looks and mannerisms made it hard to believe we weren’t watching the late great Freddie himself. The story begins when he is just a young man, trying to sort out who he is and what he is to become, yet one thing that Freddie never seems to be without is confidence. When a lucky break occurs, and a young pub band is in need of a lead singer, Freddie offers his services. When the band members make a wisecrack about his teeth and say he will never land a role in a successful band looking like that, Freddie lets his vocals due the convincing, and his career starts on its meteoric rise to greatness.
Legendary guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee), drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and bass guitarist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello) are all portrayed brilliantly. While Bohemian Rhapsody is clearly focused on Freddie and his role in Queen, the supporting characters are also an essential part of the story. Freddie regularly refers to the band as his family and the film plays homage to this by never focusing solely on Freddie the individual, but as Freddie a band/family member of Queen. The interactions between Freddie and the other bandmembers showed how their originality was not due to any one member, instead it was how they worked together that created their success. This was an excellent way to tell the story as it gave the audience an even greater understanding on why Queen was so magnificent. The scenes that showed how they collaborated to create “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Will Rock You” were especially affecting and gave us even more reasons why Queen was somebody to love.
As much as I loved the characters and the actor’s portrayals of them, they aren’t the only reason to love this film as the story was quite compelling as well. While Bohemian Rhapsody does have all the tunes of a fantastic Queen concert, featuring many of their greatest hits, it also has more heart than you might expect. I was happy to see that the focus was not the private life of the band’s main star or behind the scenes drama. While the film does delve a little into Freddie’s sexuality and the AIDS epidemic it never dwells on these topics. The story was mostly about the positive aspects of Freddie’s life and how he was very much beloved by his family, friends and fans.
Bohemian Rhapsody is far more than a simple biopic about Queen and Freddie Mercury. It’s a film with an incredible amount of substance and I haven’t felt this way about a movie since Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous (and that is saying A LOT). The promo screen before the movie wanted the audience to #bohemianrhapsody and “Share how you’ve been inspired by his story”. That is an excellent catch phrase for this movie because everything about it was inspiring. Some might view Freddie Mercury as that odd looking, eccentric singer who rose to stardom, but after watching the film you understand he was a genius who was successful because he believed in himself and his music. Obviously, if you love Queen then this is a must-see movie. Even if you have never been a huge Queen fan, but have some interest in the film, I would still highly recommend it. You might end up being a bigger fan than you thought.
4.5 out of 5 stars