The best thing I can say about “Bohemian Rhapsody” is that it aims to become a surefire Oscar contender, and the only aspect deserving of an Oscar is Rami Malek (bad fake teeth and wigs be damned). If you have to absolutely see “Bohemian Rhapsody” see it for Rami Malek, whose portrayal of Freddie Mercury is heartfelt, sublime, and much too fantastic for a movie that’s pretty much a sanitized version of the story of Queen and Freddie Mercury. When you have a biopic of the group that’s been authorized by the surviving members and is PG-13, there’s only so much flexibility allowed, and Malek thankfully rises to the occasion. And then there’s the rest of the movie.
What could have been a very unique, gripping, and complex saga about the beginning of Queen and the rise of Freddie Mercury, “Bohemian Rhapsody” plays it safe most of the time. The film sticks true to its PG-13 roots, so there’s only the implication of major drug abuse and alcoholism while a lot of the film divides its entire narrative in to awkward chunks. There’s the beginning of Queen, the creation of their famous Bohemian Rhapsody, and then Freddie Mercury’s personal life. The latter portion is shockingly questionable, as it doesn’t embrace Mercury’s LGBT lifestyle. What may be off putting to many expecting the story of an LGBT icon might find it sad to see that Mercury’s homosexuality is played more as a dysfunction that he embraces, more than anything else. His entire life is pretty much held back by his affection for men, even his musical creations.
When he’s pictured in his environment indulging in his sexual identity, director Bryan Singer downplays a ton of the exploits almost like Mercury’s homosexuality is a darkness he learned to live with until the very end. The script makes it abundantly clear that he’s bisexual, and pictures his romance with Mary Astin as something that might have led him down a lighter path. He’d still be thriving if he weren’t gay, damn it. Beyond those fairly ugly overtones, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is about as by the numbers and monotonous as you can expect from an end of the year musical biopic with Oscar aspirations. The film booms with great music from the band along with a plethora of cliché montages that view everything between the music as just things that happened and didn’t warrant exploration.
There’s a ton of focus on Freddy Mercury’s life before Queen, his blasting on to the stage, his rise to fame, his (PG-13) hedonism, the band’s break up, and the triumphant return at Live-Aid. The script almost always keeps everyone just about as squeaky clean as possible, with Queen acting as a tightly knit group infiltrated by outside forces, including Freddie’s conniving gay assistant, and Freddie’s traditional family. It’s a pretty ominous sign when your film promises to be remembered mainly for an eye rolling, bizarre meta-joke involving a walk on by Mike Myers who is obviously cast only for his background with Queen and “Wayne’s World.” You can almost hear the producers brainstorming: “Let’s cast Mike Myers as the record executive who hates Bohemian Rhapsody! Remember “Wayne’s World”? People still remember “Wayne’s World.” It’ll test well with millennials!”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” doesn’t offer anything new or gather any interesting insight in to the group, nor will it really grant hardcore fans a new out look on the iconic vocalist. It’s just a pretty dull, music biopic that colors in the lines. Like most biopics, “Bohemian Rhapsody” will leave you anxious to re-visit the actual music rather than re-watch a movie that feels like it was written around a wikipedia page.