Star Rami Malek describes highly-anticipated Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody as a celebration of Freddie Mercury but Peter Gray wonders if, despite Malek’s tour de force performance, the movie avoids the authentic Mercury in pursuit of commercial success.
Long overdue but not the deeply exposed, warts-and-all- tale that we deserve, Bohemian Rhapsody plays it relatively safe when detailing the legacy of rock band Queen and its flamboyant lead singer Freddie Mercury.
A well-intentioned biopic from director Bryan Singer, producers Graham King (Tomb Raider, Argo) and Jim Beach (former Queen manager) and founding members Brian May and Roger Taylor (the duo serving as creative consultants) Bohemian Rhapsody ultimately feels like a disservice to Queen and Freddie himself, even if it’s been created with evident love and affection.
Regardless of what one thinks of the vanilla layering added to the dramatics of the story, there’s no denying that the recreation of Queen’s music and Rami Malek’s revelatory turn as Freddie is worth celebrating.
Whilst Malek may not entirely look like Freddie, he utterly encapsulates the charisma and all-around mystique he carried with him; this is a truly great performance.
And then there’s the film’s climactic moment of recreating their epic Live Aid set from 1985, which is so massively intoxicating to view it feels like you are watching it live in real time.
The idea to stage this as the film’s send-off sequence (whilst not the band’s actual final hurrah) is ingenious as it guarantees you’ll leave the film satisfied and hankering for their music.
The remaining Queen members – as played by Joseph Mazzello, Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy – are satisfactory in their turns. The film proves adequate in detailing their jealousy towards Freddie, although any heavy arguments that would’ve been had between them are toned down, again adding to the film’s insistence on playing nice as opposed to playing real.
Imperfect as it is, Bohemian Rhapsody is undeniably a crowd-pleasing feature, and perhaps the film’s intention to appeal to mass audiences – and not just those familiar with Queen – explains why it has voided itself of any overt drama; even Freddie’s own homosexuality is treated quite lightly here.
Bohemian Rhapsody is in Australian cinemas now. Watch the trailer below: