Bohemian Rhapsody is a rollicking, high energy tribute to Queen; and their iconic lead singer, the legendary Freddie Mercury. The film will have you bouncing in your seat and dancing in the aisles, while shedding a tear or two along the way. Bohemian Rhapsody is unabashedly a helicopter biography. It embraces Freddie Mercury's dazzling persona with fervor. Choosing to focus on the talent, electrifying stage presence, and lifelong friendships that defined him. Those looking for deep insights into his character, or salacious details about his homosexuality, will have to be satisfied by fleeting glimpses. This Queen is definitely all killer.
Bohemian Rhapsody opens in 1970 with young Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek) tossing luggage at Heathrow airport. He disappoints his parents by partying late night at university rock shows. Farrokh introduces himself as Freddie to guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy). Their singer has just quit. He wants the job. At first they mock him for his buck teeth, but change their attitude when they hear his incredible vocal range. Freddie's reticence offstage is transformed by Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). They fall madly in love.
Freddie's stage theatrics, flamboyant clothing, and soaring vocals gain a sizable local following. He renames the band Queen. They pick up bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) and the sparks really begin to fly. The group has prodigious chemistry. They believe in each other, and more importantly, Freddie's grand ambitions. EMI Records takes notice. Queen rockets to stardom. As they conquer the music world, the bandmates indulge in the spoils of success. Freddie falls under the spell of stage manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), who facilitates his sexual appetites.
Bohemian Rhapsody is tremendously entertaining and will delight Queen fans. I am honestly stunned by this outcome. The film had headline making issues during production. Director Bryan Singer, known for the X-Men franchise and The Usual Suspects, was fired by 20th Century Fox. He had a personal conflict with star Rami Malek, and was also chronically absent from the set. The studio brought in Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill, Eddie the Eagle) to complete the film. Singer retains sole directing credit, per the Directors Guild rules. Movies finished by a replacement director are usually disasters. Bohemian Rhapsody shows no sign of the turmoil. Dexter Fletcher deserves every accolade. It's a shame that his name appears nowhere in the film.
Rami Malek is the embodiment of Freddie Mercury. He carries Bohemian Rhapsody from the first frame to the last. Malek nails every prance, vocal inflection, and sheepish grin. The concert scenes, particularly the climactic Live Aid show, are mesmerising. Malek is nothing short of spectacular. He melts into Freddie Mercury, truly an Oscar worthy performance. The film is entirely dependent on his believability. It's astonishing that he was able to stay focused with all the conflict behind the camera. This is pure conjecture, but I will surmise that Dexter Fletcher rode his champion horse to the finish. He saw how amazing Malek was as Mercury. Fletcher let his star light the way. There's no need to rebake the cake if the primary ingredient has already been added, and is damn good.
Coming from Fox, Bohemian Rhapsody does address Freddie Mercury's sexuality and his eventual succumbing to AIDS. I had zero issues with how much time the film spent exploring these events. It's obvious that the band didn't want a sordid dig into Freddie Mercury's private life, or his childhood. A pivotal, heartbreaking scene has Mercury telling the band his diagnosis. But it was his secret. He didn't want to be the poster boy for AIDS. Bohemian Rhapsody honors Freddie Mercury the way he would have liked to be remembered, as an unparalleled performer, bandmate, and dear friend.