Rami Malek’s amazing performance as Freddie Mercury anchors this strong musical biography where audiences can escape to an authentic and nostalgic time in rock music history. Directed by Bryan Singer, Bohemian Rhapsody captures Queen’s amazing musical moments as well as the dramatic ebbs in the band’s personal lives.
Malek (Mr. Robot series) impresses in his performance that depicts Mercury’s rise as the lead singer of the rock band Queen. The two hour and 14-minute running time spans from 1970 to 1985 as heartfelt storylines stem and grow from Mercury.
Malek’s chameleon-like acting skills allow him to embody Mercury so fully that this film drapes an amazing documentary-type feel and tone over the audience, which is only ruined with a few overdramatic reactions of fans in a Queen outdoor concert sequence at the end. Thankfully, audiences are never manipulated into their emotions and instead get a front row seat to some incredible music experiences.
The incredible casting by the veteran casting director Susie Figgis (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Interview With a Vampire, The Full Monty) captures the look of each band member and their surrounding entourage of managers and executives as well as each one’s personal passion and personality whether the audience was previously aware of them or not.
Lead guitar and vocalist Brian May (Gwilym Lee), drummer and vocalist Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and bass guitarist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) complete the Queen band portrayals. “Now we’re four misfits who don’t belong together, we’re playing for the other misfits. They’re the outcasts, right at the back of the room. We’re pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them,” Freddie explains to a music executive.
These friendships forge the events instead of vice versa, especially when Freddie belts out songs using his multi-octave vocal skills. This film does address Freddie’s mouth/teeth in one line of dialogue (from Freddie) about how his additional incisors make more space in his mouth, which apparently means more range.
Lee does a great job defending and directing the band during crucial moments, especially during a press conference sequence where reporters are obsessed with Freddie’s celebrity status and rumors about his sexuality. “Does anyone have questions about the music?” says Lee as Brian.
The quality sound editing and mixing is sure to garner an Oscar nomination for some amazing work that uses the vocals from Queen master tapes, new recordings by Canadian Christian rock singer Marc Martel, and/or Rami’s voice.
Once Freddie cements his role in Queen, the success continues due to his respect and loyalty for his bandmates. “I am the lead singer not the leader of the band,” he says. “We’re family. We believe in each other. That’s everything.” The challenges to that mantra come with the predictable lies, betrayal, and miscommunication. As in most films, audiences learn that direct, face-to-face communication can resolves so many unnecessary issues.
Audience gets a decent glimpse of Freddie’s home life in England growing up as Farrokh Bulsara with his mother Jer (Meneka Das), father Bomi (Ace Bhatti), and sister Kashmira (Priya Blackburn).
Freddie’s personal life with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), a Biba shop assistant plays a key role along with the roles of Queen’s first manager John Reid (Aidan Gillen), Queen’s day-to-day manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), and Queen’s lawyer then manager Jim Beach (Tom Hollander). Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker) is another key character in Freddie’s life.
A well-disguised Mike Myers plays music executive Ray Foster who is not willing to accommodate Queen’s vision of “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a releasable single in one of the best sequences in the film. Like the dejected NBA player on the receiving end of one of Michael Jordan’s amazing slam dunks, Ray misses the opportunity to meet with greatness on the same level. Wayne’s World fans will enjoy a clever reference that does not distract from the main storyline. It’s almost like a thank you to Myers for bringing this song back into prominence for a whole generation.
Audiences are treated with several sequences of the creation of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” song, which might leave audiences wanting more…like how under “Under Pressure” was created with David Bowie.
Filmmakers take this experience to an even higher level beyond Queen’s music with various references that directly reflect the character and their storylines. For example, many opera arias from Madama Butterfly and Carmen foreshadow storylines and capture character emotions at that time.
John Ottman edits this film while also providing the musical score – a feat he’s done several times with Singer now.
This experienced filmmaking crew should also be commended for enduring a change in the directing helm near the end of production as Singer was replaced late in production by Dexter Fletcher though Singer still gets full direction credit. Fletcher received an executive producer credit on this film.
Recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language. The emotions will move you as much as the music does. It takes a lot of talented people to make highest-grossing musical biographical film of all-time as this film sets a new standard.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler