REVIEW: A biopic about Freddie Mercury and the evolution of Queen has been rumored and discussed for years at this point, with some people wondering if it was ever going to happen or even worth doing. Well, despite the bumpy road, the time is finally upon us. 20th Century Fox and X-Men filmmaker Bryan Singer have delivered the story. Bohemian Rhapsody is here, and let me tell you up front that despite some misses in the storytelling, it's as big a blast as it should be.
First things first, I feel I have to get this out of the way: This film is uneven. The first act is extremely choppy in my eyes. I found myself a little taken aback by the way it moved during the early days of Queen's rise. We move from important moment to important moment in a way that feels like Anthony McCarten's screenplay desperately wants to get to the meat as quickly as possible. With that desire, some things get lost in the shuffle and suffer from poor editing choices. Some relationships and character beat set-ups would have done well with maybe ten or fifteen more minutes of screen time. I found myself waiting a little too long for the piece to breathe.
Also, there are moments in the film where Singer chose to make different visual choices with graphics on screen and text over the imagery that feel strange because they're never consistent. It isn't a recurring device, it's just trying things in a way that feels unneeded.
Now, with all that said, the best way I can describe this film overall is that it works hard and moves with a spirit that defies its flaws. It's a "solid" or "good" movie that's elevated to a GREAT time because of its leading performance. I say without a shadow of a doubt that Rami Malek will be the core of the conversation for this film and all music biopics going forward.
Each of Malek's actions and choices in this film are extremely calculated, but never robotic. He's going for broke here, imbuing every word with a wistful energy and a fantastical purpose. It doesn't feel like a TAKE on Freddie. Within seconds of seeing him, you believe that he IS Freddie. And when the film touches on the iconic frontman's darker periods, Malek keeps you eating out of the palm of his hand at all times. I only wanted the best for him as our protagonist. And as the script and Malek convey, Freddie only wanted the best for us, in terms of content and experience. And speaking of that content, it's important to note that the film doesn't shy away from showing us details of Freddie's lifestyle and the cause of his grim end. It was honest, while never crossing into full on "dark" territory.
Working with Malek to paint this dazzling picture is a wonderful supporting cast. Whether it's Lucy Boynton as Freddie's longtime companion Mary Austin, or the trio of Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello as the other members of Queen, everyone delivers. It really feels like we get a peek at some of the behind the scenes moments in their history. Of course, it is doubtful that some of the events transpired in the way that's depicted here, but the film works hard to convince you.
Of course, the film also succeeds because of its musical sequences. I can't express how engaging the direction and the performances are whenever the band hits the stage. It's a gradual build from their earliest performance together to one of the most iconic sets in music history, and by the time we were there I was so hooked. This film has one of the most electric final sequences I've seen in a good long while. It's the greatest magic trick of the entire thing. The third act just drops you straight into a mythical moment, and I found myself wanting to jump to my feet.
This film is definitely worth your time. You'll find yourself quickly forgetting the questionable pacing and sometimes odd visual choices when it's over. And if you're like me, you'll find yourself wanting to create something when you leave the theater.