Reel Reviews | Bohemian Rhapsody

by Monica Hayes

Twenty-eight years after the passing of prolific frontman Freddie Mercury, Bryan Singer brings you the biopic of the legendary band Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody. Does it have all the glitz and glamour that it deserves or will it fall short?
Bohemian Rhapsody opens up with Freddie Mercury’s (Rami Malek) epic walk to the stage for the 1985 Live Aid concert with ‘Somebody to Love’ playing in the background. We then flashback to a young Farrokh Bulsara (Mercury’s given name) watching soon to be bandmates Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor’s (Ben Hardy) band, Smile, play in a nightclub. He walks up to them and tosses a song he scribbled on a napkin and tells them he also sings and would be a great addition to the band. They both laugh and Roger says to him “yea right, not that with those teeth mate!” At that point, Freddie belts out a soulful sound that made both Brian and Roger stop laughing and stare in awe. They agreed to let him join the band.

With the addition of John Deacon (Joseph Mazello) on bass, their first performance with Freddie was a spectacle, to say the least. No one had seen anyone or anything like Freddie on stage. He was flamboyant and pranced around like a peacock. While he did his thing, the crowd had no clue how to take this awkward, funny looking guy doing his thing, but they were mesmerized. Smile was once again a band. From that point, the band was solidified but the current name of the band just didn’t do it for Freddie, so he came up with a new name. A name that would make them sound more regal and raise eyebrows. The name he came up with for the four misfits who came together to rock the world as no other band did, nor has done since was epic. It was a name that will go down as the most progressive, forward-thinking, boundless bands in history…Queen.

Bohemian Rhapsody traces the spectacular rise of Queen with their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. It tells of the ups and downs, and the challenges of four individuals, who by themselves were incredibly smart, strong-willed and talented men who came together to make beautiful music. They truly were a band of misfits, playing for misfits. It tells of the many challenges they went through to make the music industry let them express themselves artistically. They were determined not to be placed in a box with what was the “in” thing at the time. Most importantly, it tells the story of their extraordinary lead singer, Freddie Mercury and his struggle to be the creative genius he was born to be, his struggles with his father and of his own identity.

The casting in Bohemian Rhapsody was brilliant, to say the least. Malek was the personification of Mercury. Malek engrossed himself into this character so much, that you think you are watching Mercury, live. The way he moved, the way he talked and when he performed on stage he almost leaps off the screen. The same for Lee, Mazello and Hardy. Each cast member was the spitting image of the band member played. It was scary to watch just how much they looked exactly alike. It is if you are actually watching Queen tell their story and not actors portraying them.

The script was good but was not without its issues; mainly continuity issues and there were several. One issue is the way John Deacon just appears on stage during their first performance. No explanation of how he came to the band, he just appeared as if by magic. The second, issue is the way they came up with their music. We see Mercury scribbling on napkins, playing on the piano, humming tunes, or Deacon playing a funky bass line. We see May gathering folks in the studio and having them stomp-stomp-clap. There was no explanation or insight into how they came up with the songs. The movie cuts from a scene between Mary and Mercury to May coming up with the inevitable ‘We Will Rock You!’

Bohemian Rhapsody also contained many questions that were either overlooked or blatantly left unexplained. For example, we all know Freddie was so in love with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). He proposed to her, gave her a ring and told her to never take it off, no matter what. A ring she still wears to this day. Mary was that one person who Freddie truly loved and trusted and no other person or lover could take her place in his heart. However, Rhapsody glosses over the depth of love they had for one another in their relationship. If you think they glossed over his relationship with Mary, his relationship with longtime lover Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker) was almost nonexistent. Mercury and Hutton were together from 1985 until his death in 1991, but Rhapsody only shows Hutton as a random waiter who has his hiney pinched by Mercury and threatens to “thump him” if he did it again. Then we see them on the couch chatting it up like old mates and eventually kissing. At that point, Hutton tells Mercury to come to find him when he learns to love himself. Hutton does not reappear until the last twenty minutes of the movie after Freddie picks him up, introduces him to his parents and takes him to the Live Aid concert. Wait, what? Where is the rest of the story? How did we get here???

The main issue with Rhapsody is that either the writers or the band were not willing to go down the rabbit hole to get down and dirty with details of what really happened between them. We all know there was a horrible public break up and years of not speaking to one another, until their reunion and epic performance at Live Aid in 1985. It seemed as though the remaining members of the band wanted to keep their image squeaky clean and play it safe instead of laying it all out there for all to see.

Overall, even with all of the issues, Rhapsody will have you rocking in your seat, singing your favorite Queen songs. Audiences will get a glimpse of Freddie’s flamboyant costumes worn on stage and will get to relive their Live Aid performance that is still considered to be one of their greatest performances. You will laugh at what will be a famous line in the movie of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody… nobody wants to bang their head to a six-minute song.” LOL, yeah right. It will bring tears of joy and sadness to your eyes. It is worth checking out. Freddie would think this was a good start but could be better.

Grade: B