Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

As biopics go, Bohemian Rhapsody is not a great movie. But it does feature plenty of strong performances and a final act that more than makes up for its shortcomings – particularly if you’re a fan of Queen and/or grew up in the ‘Live Aid’ generation. Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the men and music that made up the iconic British rock band fronted by Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek, TV’s Mr. Robot) from 1970 until his AIDS-related death in 1991. To this day, the band plays on – in various incarnations – with Mercury’s influence still vital to its core, though his energetic presence is sorely missed. He was a unique dude.

A lot’s been said of Malek’s performance and physical resemblance to Mercury, but the film is at its most entertaining when he’s shown interacting with bandmates Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello), all singer-songwriters who contributed to the band’s success. The casting is spot-on across the board.

Mike Myers provides some comic relief as an EMI record executive who balks at releasing the unconventional, six-minute epic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” But according to a bit of research from HistoryVsHollywood.com, Myers’ character didn’t really exist. Oh well. One person who did exist and is featured somewhat prominently in the film is Mercury’s longtime friend and muse Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton, Sing Street). Although Mercury was gay, the pair loved and supported each other for many years.

Mercury’s teeth feature prominently as well. Sure, he had a major overbite that is certainly well-documented, but Malek’s prosthetic in the film is overkill to the point of distraction.

Overall, Bohemian Rhapsody is the standard stuff of biopics or a special episode of Behind the Music: band-mates meet; they skyrocket to fame; they face various personal and professional challenges; one dabbles in solo pursuits, betraying the bond of brotherhood; they reunite; tragedy strikes. Typical as that narrative may be, there’s no denying the place that Mercury and the music of Queen holds in the annals of rock music history. The songs are downright infectious and evoke a trip down memory lane: Somebody to Love, Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions, Another One Bites the Dust, Love of My Life, Radio Ga Ga… the earworms keep on comin’. The film culminates in the band’s legendary performance at a sold-out Wembley Stadium in London during Live Aid in 1985 (check out the clips on YouTube to see just how closely the art imitates real life). That final concert is worth the film’s price of admission. The rest… doesn’t really matter, to me.

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