Bohemian Rhapsody has been hitting the heights at all the big award shows and so, after missing it at the cinema, it came with intrigue and reservation to finally see it. For one, I had to see Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury but it came with awareness of how award season can get lost in the nostalgia of its own creations. So does Bo Rhap, as people are calling it, deserve all the accolades? Well, yes and no. It’s an absolutely huge yes for Malek’s performance, commitment and approach to the very real character of Freddie but it’s all a bit unbalanced around him and other parts of the narrative.
The thing is, it’s been a bit Roger Tailored and Brian Mayonnaised, while the talent and presence of Freddie have never been questioned, not in this household or millions of others, the first 30 minutes or so of the film are highly questionable, softened down and layered with cheese as they write hit-after-hit without a single moment of hesitation or creative delays. This is hard to take, in any profession, let alone the arts when a simple structure or idea can take hours or days out of your life, and that’s coming from experience. Weirdly, in a non-fiction world we could let this go but it’d be ripped apart as not being genuine, so it’s difficult to comprehend when you know it’s supposedly based on ‘real events’.
While Freddie did defy the stereotype of the era, and helped send Queen stratospheric, there’s another softening down of his sexuality, which is obviously widely known now. While the film would follow the conventions of people being less accepting in that era, as this is 2019, do we need the same narrative to be hidden by doubt and suggestion, or is it fair to say that this element of his life was always up for discussion? Whatever we know or don’t know, the positives of Bohemian Rhapsody all lie with Rami Malek and a stupendous portrayal of an iconic character. The one true essence of the film IS Rami as Freddie, and especially his relationship with Mary Austin, played by Lucy Boynton. Their friendship and relationship comes across as genuine and full of heart, even in the tough times.
Malek makes it look effortless but it’s also clear that he’s offered everything to portraying Mercury, from his self-doubt to his flamboyant nature, nothing is left behind and it’s all out there on screen and on the stage. The rest of Queen are perfectly affable, with well-structured performances from Gwilym Lee as Brian May (uncanny visually), Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor and Joe Mazzello as John Deacon, who you might remember as the kid from Jurassic Park. I’m a little unsure why ‘Miami’ Tom Holland is in the film, mainly because an actor of his calibre is brutally underused and he spends a lot of the film hanging around in the background, which was maybe purposeful on his part. There’s also an odd Mike Myers cameo as a record exec, which all leads up to the camera zooming in on him, and his unusually accented Englishman, saying “No-one is going to be head-banging in the car to Bohemian Rhapsody”, which may as well had him taking off his glasses and raise a Roger Moore-style-eyebrow to the camera, in the spirit of Wayne’s World.
Skipping over the strange moments, Bohemian Rhapsody deserves some praise for its level of intent but realistically falls short of being something truly special. HOWEVER, yes in capitals, I could have watched hours of Rami Malek taking on Freddie because he deserves every plaudit, it’s truly masterful; there’s no doubt on that at all.
Special Features include the complete Live Aid Film performance, 20 minutes – where’s the real one? And also a lovely little documentary with Rami Malek on Becoming Freddie plus The Look and Sound of Queen, and recreating Live Aid.
Bohemian Rhapsody is available now on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD.
Buy it now: https://amzn.to/2EzNqSi