Bohemian Rhapsody is another one of those anomalies where a perfectly awful film gets saved by an incredible performance (much like last year’s Three Billboards and Frances McDormand) – the remarkable Rami Malek never falls into the trap of mimicry, which would be easy to do in lesser hands, considering Freddie Mercury’s larger-than-the-universe persona, rather he manifests the spirit and soul, and more importantly the swagger – he disappears inside the role. If he wins the Oscar for Best Actor, for which I am sure he will be nominated, I can’t hold it against the Academy – he is that good.
Unfortunately, the film itself was akin to watching a bloated, two-plus hour VH1 Behind The Music episode, only factually abhorrent – and speciously determined to diabolize Mercury’s sexuality, instead of celebrating it.
Along with that inexcusable aberration, the script is pedestrian at best, written like a High School student writing a book report on his favorite singer; there’s no complexity, and it’s dependent on all the cliches and tropes of a typical Hollywood biopic. Also, it’s sloppily directed, which is no wonder; before he was fired, Bryan Singer (two of the most dreadful words in filmdom) has left his hack-marks splattered all over the screen.
The film’s other saving grace is the Live AID recreation. Historically inaccurate and CGI-laden though it is, it still thrills mostly because of Malek’s joyful embodiment of Mercury (despite that the quick cuts to the audience and hometown bars – and more particularly, backstage viewers, smiling and nodding along, with Mary Austin clutching her chest in awe and wonder – was the ultimate in cringe-inducing). In actuality, though, you really should just YouTube the actual full, exhilarating and legendary Queen performance.
Mercury – one of the great, dynamic and talented Rock front men in history – deserves a biopic worthy of his life, his talent and his true sexuality. Bohemian Rhapsody was made for rabid Queen fans longing to see their Rock God on the big screen, no matter the cost of authenticity. Or craft.
My grade: C+ (upped a notch for Malek)