Queen is a legendary musical group. Even if you don’t think you know a lot of their stuff, as the songs play, you realize how many of their tracks have seeped into your mind over the years. It’s an astounding list, highlighted by the eccentric Bohemian Rhapsody, a six-minute operatic rock track. Can a film about the lead singer Freddie Mercury work? Or is this sacred ground that shouldn’t be attempted?
Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek) grew up taking music lessons and wanting to be a star, though his family wanted him to live a much more traditional life. When he encountered a band that just lost their lead singer, he teams up with them (Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy) to start the band Queen. They need a bass player, so they recruit one (Joseph Mazzello, or known as little Timmy from Jurassic Park). This movie then tracks their achievements as they create some spectacular music and Bulsara, now going by the stagename Freddie Mercury, struggles with finding his place in the world. We also feature Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones), Allen Leech, Lucy Boynton, and a camouflage cameo by Mike Myers (Wayne’s World).
The music is the star of the show, which is predictable. The performances are chilling and energetic and the story of how these songs were created are often fascinating stories. It’s all held together by an interesting performance by Rami Malek, giving us a caricature of Freddie Mercury, outlandish and yet sympathetic. I watched a few interviews and performances by Mercury just now and I’m not sure if Malek is accurate but it’s definitely enthralling.
The supporting cast do their best but they’re obviously second-fiddle. I don’t even remember any names, they were all just orbiting Mercury and his tale. This movie is really a Freddie Mercury story, not a Queen story.
The climax of the movie centers around a huge concert, the biggest performance Queen ever held, and this sequence is incredible. It capitalizes on our love of Queen music and allows Malek to dominate the stage. It’s a fantastic ending to the film, though it’s debatable if the movie succeeds elsewhere.
What doesn’t work?
While the music is the star, the rest of the movie in between big tracks feels a little mundane and kind of boring, which a shame considering how interesting Mercury should be. The second half of the movie especially feels very sluggish, until the big climax. Your ears perk up when the music kicks in, but if that’s all you’re going for, you might as well watch the actual performances that they’re reenacting.
This movie has an interesting problem in that it can feel sluggish but the events move quickly. Mercury starts the film as an unknown but it seems as if suddenly they have a big following. Years fly by, we miss major milestones, so that we can get to the next big single. It moves fast, trying to get you through everything, that there’s very little downtime. This is why we don’t get to learn names and why some characters get no resolution, the movie just moves too quickly. But that quick journey isn’t always enthralling, so it’s still a little dull.
I wanted Bohemian Rhapsody to be great but I think a better experience might be rewatching Queen’s library of music videos and live performances. At its best, Rami Malek does an interesting job as Freddie Mercury and we see him lip sync to Queen’s biggest hits. The story has a few great moments but overall feels a tad dull but skips along through plot points too quickly to really dwell in them. I had a fun time but this wasn’t the great movie that I wanted it to be.