You’ve heard the music, you’ve seen the name—you’ve possibly even held a “Wayne’s World” style sing along from the backseat of your best buddy’s car.
To call British rock band Queen influential would be like calling fire hot, so obvious that saying it out loud would just get you weird looks from your now-worried friends. “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018) follows the story of the band’s front man Farrokh Bulsara, more commonly known by his stage name, Freddie Mercury, from his joining of Queen in 1969 to the band’s iconic Live Aid performance in 1985.
The story of the band that brought us “Killer Queen,” “We Are the Champions,” and the film’s namesake song, however, is much less well-known than these hits, and perhaps for good reason—it’s riddled with lies, drugs, and hair cuts that haven’t aged all that well. Although the film is overall an emotional, head-banging, rock-n-roller coaster, there are several sequences that are no bed of roses and no pleasure cruise.
The first hour of “Bohemian Rhapsody” suffers from being unnecessarily cheesy and awkwardly self-referential. An early scene, for example, shows Mercury fawning over clothes on a rack just to be told that they’re women’s pants (Get it? Because he wore women’s pants? So clever!).
Additionally, the timeline of the movie is puzzling at the outset, jumping from scene to scene in a way that’s a bit confusing if you’re not paying attention. Granted, this is to show the audience the important bits without dwelling too much on any particular scene longer than necessary, but the fractured style makes the first third of the film feel like a very, very long trailer for a much better movie. I was hardly expecting the whole movie to be a thrill ride from start to finish, but the beginning drags on far longer than it needs to.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” puts its best foot forward, well, about an hour in. This is where the movie’s heart really shines and becomes worthy of the Queen name. The movie finds its focus in the drama that was Mercury’s life. From his tense relationship with his fellow bandmates to the toxic relationship he finds himself in, we see the more sympathetic and human side of a figure the whole world viewed as just a rockstar. The final scene is where the it makes up for most of its shortcomings—to avoid spoilers, all you need to know is that any doubts you have about the movie will be put to rest.
Despite great performances by the whole cast, Rami Malek steals the show as Mercury, just like an actor playing Mr. Bad Guy himself. Malek shows us more than just Mercury the rock star. He masterfully depicts Mercury’s charismatic stage persona while also revealing him as a deeply flawed individual, which makes for a compelling and relatable narrative. Furthermore, Malek’s vocals blend seamlessly with recordings of Mercury’s singing, further emphasizing his award-worthy performance. You may not remember every detail of the movie’s plot within a week, but Malek’s performance is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
Regardless of its flaws, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is never boring and definitely does its subject justice. Whether you’re a Queen diehard or just enjoyed “We Will Rock You” at a Patriots game one time, this is a film worth seeing.
Directed by Bryan Singer. Starring Rami Malek, Ben Hardy, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, and Allen Leech. At Boston Common, Fenway, and others. 2 hrs 15 min. PG-13.
–Nov. 2, 2018–