Movie Review: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ tries to tell important story but falls flat

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“The problem with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is [that] it doesn’t know whether it wants to tell his story or the story of the band” (Photo courtesy courtesy of imdb.com)

Allie Rosen

It’s crazy to think how influential the band Queen has been on pop culture. It’s even crazier to think how it took this long to make a biopic about its lead singer and arguably the greatest frontman in rock and roll history: Freddie Mercury. The problem with “Bohemian Rhapsody” is it doesn’t know whether it wants to tell his story or the story of the band.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” stars Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury and Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin, the love of Mercury’s life. The film was mostly directed by Bryan Singer, but Singer was fired for his conduct on and off set and was replaced by Dexter Fletcher halfway through (who only got a producer credit).

“Bohemian Rhapsody” follows Mercury and the story of Queen, the band’s rise to fame and Mercury’s ultimate self-destruction. Queen’s music is also front and center throughout the film.

What truly works in “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the powerful performance of Rami Malek. He steals the spotlight away from the rest of the movie and perfectly embodies the rock legend. For Rami Malek’s first major shift from TV to film, he showcases his range, as well as his dedication to character. Mercury was a flamboyant and reckless character searching for purpose and love, which Malek’s performance shows. It’s highly likely we will see Malek talked about when Academy Awards season comes around.

The last 30 minutes of “Bohemian Rhapsody” are truly special. The third act feels focused and powerful. Mercury’s struggle with self-destruction and the consequences of his decisions are on full display. The finale leaves the audience feeling electrified.

Sadly, this is where the pros of “Bohemian Rhapsody” come to an end. “Bohemian Rhapsody” takes many liberties in the timeline of Queen. The incredible third act of the film loses its power when you read that Queen didn’t reunite days prior to Live Aid and instead had been playing together for years before hand. Mercury’s decision to go solo is shown as egotistical in order to force drama into the story.

The first half of the film is egregiously bad. It feels much more like a well-made TV movie. It refuses to focus on a single scene or single performance that was seminal to the band and instead throws everything they possibly can at the screen and hoping it sticks. This leaves most of “Bohemian Rhapsody” feeling hollows and soul-less.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” also struggles with what it’s trying to be. It can’t decide whether it wants to be the story of Queen or the story of Mercury. The focus rides a wave between depicting the tumultuous interaction of the band to Mercury and back again. It takes the first two acts before it gives up on the band itself and just shows the downfall of Mercury.

What came out of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the shell of a really interesting biopic of a man who redefined music, strived for love, and destroyed himself in the process. I can’t in good faith recommend this film, it’s a disappointment and it’s worth waiting until it shows up on HBO in a year. Instead, go listen to Queen and then read about one of the most important figures in music ever: Mercury.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” receives a 10/20.