You'll be singing along to Bohemian Rhapsody

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By Sára Neužilová, Third Year Theatre & Film

The Freddie Mercury biopic is more of a reliving of Queen’s greatest hits rather than a dramatic insight into the singer’s life, but the film is a entertaining singalong.

Bohemian Rhapsody is an exhilarating odyssey through the history of Queen. The film revolves around lead singer Freddie Mercury’s life and his connection to the band, from the establishment of the band all the way to the notoriously famous Live Aid performance in 1985. The film handles Mercury’s life with attentive care, staying clear of crossing the line and following the rules, when depicting the greatness of a man who did anything and everything but.

Youtube / 20th Century Fox

Unfortunately, Bohemian Rhapsody did not have a smooth production. Starting with the initial star Sacha Baron Cohen dropping out of the project due to ‘creative differences’, it was later stated that Brian May was concerned about Baron’s comedy background and worried he would not do justice to the complex story of Freddie Mercury. In the end Cohen was replaced by Rami Malek and it was a great choice - Malek’s energy throughout the film is reminiscent of Mercury himself.

As well as the original lead dropping out, director Bryan Singer was fired from the project after numerous disagreements on set and him repeatedly not showing up to set. Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher, who finished the production, yet it is Singer who is stated as the sole director of the film. Bohemian Rhapsody could have easily turned into a disaster, but it managed to save its skin, and that is mostly due to the excellent casting.

Not only does each actor visually look like their respective band member, they manage to have an undeniable chemistry throughout the movie that feels true to Queen. Even though Malek was not the original choice for Mercury, he definitely encapsulates his essence, from mannerisms on stage to his behaviour in his private life.

Twitter / @tonysheps

It needs to be stressed that Bohemian Rhapsody is not a retelling of Mercury’s life; it is a journey through the history of the band. That being said, the audience gets to witness some of the biggest moments in Mercury’s life, as well as his struggle with his national and sexual identity. An immense importance is paid to Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin (Boynton) from through their marriage, their separation and their life-long friendship.

Freddie’s relationship with Mary is mirrored by his relationship with his band mates, and his progressing alienation from them, followed up by his decision to record two solo albums. Interestingly, Mercury’s sexuality is the least explored element of his persona. There are hints throughout the film that suggest his sexuality, but they are mainly innocent looks rather than anything too explicit. The film could not end without mentioning Mercury’s partner Jim Hutton (McCusker), but as the two became a couple not long before the Live Aid performance, their relationship is not explicitly explored in the film.

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IMDb / Bohemian Rhapsody / 20th Century Fox

Given that the film is focused on Freddie Mercury, the other band members do not get as fleshed out story arcs as him. That does not mean the performances of Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor), Joseph Mazzello (John Deacon) and Gwilym Lee (Brian May) are less than remarkable. However, one thing that takes away from the illusion is the fact that unlike Malek, the other three are not given as much attention, which leads to them not really ageing through the film. It is especially visible with Ben Hardy, portraying Roger Taylor, who by the Live Aid performance in 1985 was married and had children, yet Hardy looks like a 20-year-old boy.

The problem Bohemian Rhapsody faces is that the poignant and gripping story of Freddie Mercury’s life is put into direct contrast with Queen’s reasonably easy journey to fame. Anthony McCarten’s script, in trying to focus on the band’s history rather than putting Mercury to the foreground too much, struggles to interject the much necessary drama to the overall arc of the film. It is a cheerful and enjoyable foray through the hits, but it does not provided any dramatic richness.

*Instagram / @bohemianrhapsodymovie*

Bohemian Rhapsody is not a revolutionary work of cinematic excellence, but that does not stop the audiences from having a good time. It is an exciting parade of Queen’s greatest hits. All the songs used in the film are those the majority of the Western world can at least hum to, making it an enjoyable experience with a pinch of feelings, provided mainly by the painful story of Mercury’s private life. It is a film that might not necessarily impress on a cinematic level, but it definitely does not offend.

Featured Image: IMDb / Bohemian Rhapsody / 20th Century Fox


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