Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 14 min.

Release Date: November 2nd, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Bryan Singer Actors: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Joseph Mazzello, Mike Myers, Ben Hardy, Aidan Gillen, Gwilym Lee, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech, Aaron McCusker, Jess Radomska

 


 

B

old, ambitious, and possessing an indomitable spirit, young Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek) rebels from his strict upbringing to pursue his interest in music. Teaming up with guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee), bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello), and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), Farrokh changes his name to Freddie Mercury and headlines the rock band Queen. Spending every last bit of money they have, the foursome records an album that quickly receives attention from record company EMI. From there, managers John Reid (Aidan Gillen) and Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) soon have the band touring the globe and receiving worldwide renown.

In 1975, Queen decide to create an experimental album that will cross genres and break boundaries. Their efforts give birth to “A Night at the Opera,” an epic assemblage of diverse tracks that finds massive acclaim in both Britain and the U.S. But as Queen’s successes reach new heights, Freddie’s personal life begins to disintegrate. When he engages in heavy drug use and sexual promiscuities, the relationship with his wife Mary (Lucy Boynton) begins to crumble, his increasing unreliability steadily pushes his bandmates away, and he comes to realize that his friends and family have been replaced with sycophants and users.

Beginning with a glimpse of his 1985 Live Aid appearance before backtracking to the start of Freddie Mercury becoming Freddie Mercury, “Bohemian Rhapsody” competently covers many of the influences that helped shape the immortal rock star (along with, of course, his bandmates). Here, he’s already in London, skipping over his humble origins in Zanzibar, to confront his burgeoning love of music, the racism routinely hurled upon him, and criticism about his prodigious teeth. Thanks to the scripting, Freddie is an instantly likable character; he’s an underdog of sorts, though he’s funny, spirited, and incredibly talented, which makes the many adversities on his rise to stardom feel like minor obstacles rather than sizable hurdles.

Most amusing is his personality, a larger-than-life mixture of uncompromising tastes and styles; he faces disapproval from his family (chiefly from his father), but never sacrifices his vision for an easier acceptance by peers. It certainly helps that he identifies as a misfit, performing for other misfits, and that through this small self-degradation, he mines plenty of levity. “I can’t think of anyone more outrageous than me.”

Interestingly, as presented in this biography, Queen doesn’t seem to have faced too many hardships on their jump to fame; one moment they’re on the BBC, and the next they’re scheduled for a U.S. tour. “Formulas work. I like formulas.” Ironically, just as Mercury and his troupe refuse to concede their creativity for more standard musical fare, the film employs many of the typical biopic constructions, including montages, quotes, graphics, and subdivided frames. Fortunately, the humor is sufficient to distract from the generic qualities (a sequence involving studio suits failing to understand the art is a nice contrast), while several moments absorbingly dive into the sources of inspiration for the band’s significant collection of masterpieces – whether it’s friends, serene environments, aspirations, or love.

Despite the music, the costumes, the partying, and the eccentricities (Queen is the epitome of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll), “Bohemian Rhapsody” is essentially a love story. With Malek’s moving, emotional performance, the energy of prosperity soon transforms into the bittersweet notes of a tortured artist struggling with self-acceptance (particularly with his sexuality). But the runaway proclivities, the excessive booze, the allure of money, and the contentious egos are no match for the powerful relationships between Freddie and Mary, and between Freddie and his bandmates.

The downward spiral of negative publicity surrounding a rumor-filled personal life can’t stop the hits from coming. Mercury’s tale may include a fall after his rise, but it triumphantly boasts redemptions that see him regain his high. And while the picture might not be a technical marvel, the music, especially during a closing medley at Wembley (the “We Are the Champions” segue is tremendous), is so forceful and enthusiastic that it’s hard not to get caught up in the momentum and the impact of one of the most enduring groups in rock history.

– The Massie Twins

  • 8/10