The Rhapsody that spanned nearly a decade
The film “Bohemian Rhapsody” indicates two things: it’s difficult to properly pay homage to such a massive band in only a few hours and the creators were desperate to get it finished.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” has been in development hell since Queen’s guitarist, Brian May, announced its production in 2010. Sacha Baron Cohen was initially cast as Freddie Mercury, and the film was going to focus on the band’s history leading up to its famous Live Aid performance in 1985.
A few years and some creative differences later and “Mr. Robot” star Rami Malek was given the spotlight as Mercury.
Immediately, Malek’s goofy false teeth occupy a lot of onscreen attention, grossly exaggerated and uncomfortably protruding. Malek’s portrayal of Mercury is exceptionally good but has an awkwardness about it which is weighed down by the bizarre script.
There are moments where Malek looks lost on what to do with the scene. Moments of conflict and certain behaviors seem forced. Internal conflict is rushed in the club scenes and a particularly cliche interview scene. Malek is given little time to flesh out the personality of the actual man.
Mercury is essentially written as a character — it’s as though the movie forgot he was a real person.
The most glaring issue of the film is found in its storytelling. Important information is rushed frequently throughout the film. When the band is recording its first few albums, the album names aren’t even dropped before someone calls in to tell the band how successful they have become.
Family drama is thrown in and is hardly relevant.
You get the big bad EMI record label executive telling the band he likes to put out formulaic pop singles. Of course, Queen doesn’t play by the rules and alienates the Shrek-sounding executive with “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Even the recording behind the incredible song the movie is titled after is hardly interesting. The process behind iconic songs are rushed through scenes where melodies are practically stumbled upon.
Even Mercury himself is hardly interesting in the movie. He comes across as a cliched, tragic musician character who faces rudimentary band conflicts when graced with success. This unfortunate characterization is even topped off with shots of his loved ones nodding with that satisfying single tear to show “He’s made it, by God!”
Without even seeing Malek’s face, we are given a very emotional introduction. Mercury trims his mustache, walking by his cat pals towards the Wembley Stadium stage for Queen’s Live Aid performance while “Somebody to Love” kicks the movie off.
Mercury gives a gracious few skips with arms outstretched as the song climaxes with his arrival onstage to a crowd of over 72,000 people. It is enough to give you goosebumps. The climax of the film, the Live Aid concert itself, is choreographed well and much detail is given to the set and performance. Even the Pepsi cups are found on the piano.
Despite not including the full setlist in the film, the performance is the film’s most focused moment and recreations like the interactive “Ay-ohs” with the crowd do feel genuine.
The film can be historically inaccurate, sometimes too glaring to overlook. The placement of Mercury’s disclosure of his declining health to his band mantes falls short of the truth. Mercury hadn’t been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS until two years after performing Live Aid.
This glaring plot hole is insulting to Mercury’s condition and serves little more than to be an element of drama shoved into the movie. It’s not exactly normal to respond to a friend telling you they have AIDS with, “But you’re a legend.” Additionally, Queen is depicted as Live Aid’s saving grace.
Nobody is shown to have donated to Live Aid’s cause before Queen showed up on stage. With some acts like David Bowie, U2, The Who, Elton John and Eric Clapton it’s improbable Queen was the sole savior of the fundraiser. Even the EMI executive, portrayed by Mike Myers, never existed.
A hysterical queen
“Bohemian Rhapsody” manages to rush a film nearly three hours in length with a weak story and poor editing. It’s unconfident in Queen’s story and adds its own elements of drama to spice up a story that was already fantastic.
Awkward writing and underwhelming musical performances leave the viewer wondering why they don’t just watch a few live clips on YouTube. Several inaccuracies and its insertion of Hollywood platitudes in its ending leaves “Bohemian Rhapsody” another biopic which bites the dust.