- “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a biopic on the band Queen that’s exactly what you would think a PG-13 telling of a rock group would be: simplistic and very bland.
- Thankfully Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury is unbelievable.
Queen was one of the most innovative bands of its era, so it’s a shame that a big-screen biopic on it doesn’t take the same kind of chances.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” looks at the group behind some of the most memorable songs in rock and roll history, topped by one of the most charismatic lead singers ever in Freddie Mercury. But it’s done in such a paint-by-numbers music biopic fashion that outside of the needle drops of Queen’s most memorable songs there isn’t anything special about it.
Correction, there’s one thing: Rami Malek as Mercury.
From his chiseled facial features to the hard-to-ignore teeth, Malek gives an incredible performance and is honestly the only reason to keep watching the movie – unless you are a Queen fanatic, in which, you are going to go nuts for this movie.
It starts as most of these kind of biopics do, with a glimpse at the band’s iconic moment. For Queen, it’s playing Live Aid in 1985. With the help of a lot of CGI, director Bryan Singer (Or was it him? That’s a very long story) gives us Mercury’s path from his home filled with cats to the stage that a billion people across the globe are looking at.
Then we jump to where it all started: Mercury, really named Farrokh Bulsara, trying to escape his rigid family life and find a stage to show his flamboyant style (and awesome vocals). And it so happens that a band called Smile just lost its lead singer, and Mercury happens to be at the gig when it goes down. After belting out a few lyrics to wow the band, he is in and Smile is soon renamed Queen.
The movie is then a collection of scenes featuring the band coming up with some of its biggest hits while trying to deal with each other’s different personalities (but never going over the line), and scenes of Mercury coming to terms with his sexuality, as well as his spiral into debauchery (but again, never going over the line).
If you were ever curious what a PG-13 version of a movie about a rock band would look like, this is it (because, I’m not joking, this movie is rated PG-13).
But thankfully for the film, its foundation is not the pleasantries between the band and lack of sex and drugs. Malek’s performance overshadows most of its flaws. He is far from a caricature of Mercury. The performance feels rooted in real qualities: The drive to be great, the pain Mercury had – whether it be the loneliness of stardom or struggling with having a complete connection with his wife, Mary Austin – it all feels authentic.
That’s what makes the ending of the movie so powerful as we return to Live Aid and watch Malek and the rest of the actors playing the band members reenacting the set Queen did that day.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” may be a cheesy and very vanilla Queen biopic, but thanks to Malek (who should get an Oscar nomination for this performance), and the band’s music, you can’t help leaving the theater with a spring in your step.