“Bohemian Rhapsody” is the highly awaited biopic on the legendary 1970s rock band Queen and its frontman Freddie Mercury. Like most, I’ve heard their singles before (including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the mega-hit the movie is named after), but I knew nothing about the history of the band. While I expected a decent take on the dangers of rock star life, I didn’t expect such an emotional, multi-faceted story. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a touching film whose thrilling musical background and powerful performances make for a captivating watch.
Spanning a decade, the movie provides a thorough background of Freddie Mercury, from before Queen was formed through their rise to stardom. The film immediately reels the watcher in with a fan-favorite: “Somebody to Love” plays while Mercury (Rami Malek) hypes himself up as curtains part to reveal a crowd of thousands. Malek is perfectly cast. His sharp facial features create an incredible resemblance to the late Mercury, although he is missing the large, buck teeth the late singer was known for. As Mercury’s teeth were an essential part of his persona, (early in the movie, Malek’s character explains that his teeth give him a musical edge he wouldn’t otherwise have) Malek wore fake teeth throughout the entirety of the movie. However, these prosthetics were very distracting at times. Malek seemed uncomfortable in them, as if he couldn’t close his mouth, and they poked out in an unsightly manner frequently.
Aside from this small detail, I would be shocked if Malek’s performance wasn’t at least nominated for an Oscar. He is expressive in his every movement. Like Mercury, his confidence and charisma draw the attention to him (although the supporting cast is similarly impressive in their roles) in every scene. An eye twitch and Malek could have the audience laughing or crying.
The concert scenes (which there are a lot of) never feel excessive or repetitive. They are electric, perfectly encapsulating the energy and excitement of the moment. The cinematography is well-done, if nothing new, and creates a colorful backdrop to the band’s history. There isn’t much change to how Mercury acts on stage, but every concert scene is goosebumps-worthy. Mercury feels electric on stage, and his band members create a funny, three-dimensional supporting cast to his genius. They never feel tacked on to the storyline; the scenes that focus on their song-writing instead of Mercury’s are equally as powerful and interesting. Occasionally there is some comedic relief, but this also is spread out evenly. However, the film is primarily focused on Mercury and his struggle with stardom, his sexuality and his identity issues.
While dealing with somewhat bleak subjects, the film never paints Mercury as a victim. The tense scenes where he is at odds with someone or obviously struggling aren’t indulging — they are beautifully acted and subtle enough to be crushing but not over the top. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is engrossing and occasionally heartbreaking without feeling sensationalized. It’s fairly long (just over two hours), but like the titular six-minute long hit, it doesn’t feel overstretched.
Verdict: With powerful performances and impassioned music, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is an emotional and fascinating must-see. Once the credits roll, super fans and casual listeners alike are sure to be moved by the inspiring story of the celebrated English band and its unforgettable lead singer.