Bohemian Rhapsody follows the formation of the band Queen, fronted by enigmatic Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek). Young Freddie finds a band called Smile, a bland band who have just lost their main singer and he manages to persuade them he has what they are missing – a great, over the top performer, song writer and vocalist. What follows next are the highs and lows of recording some of the most iconic pop songs ever, and of course, the lead up to the 1985 Live Aid gig at Wembley Stadium.
This film wouldn’t work without such a believable, fully committed performance from Rami Malek – a huge contrast for those who have seen him as Elliott in Mr. Robot as a shy, introverted computer hacker. He oozes charisma and extravagance, and you will soon get used to his fake overbite, which I was initially concerned about. Freddie’s relationship with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) is given a lot of screen time (they remained best friends throughout his life), whereas his sexuality and later HIV diagnosis are treated so subtly to the point where I would have liked to see more.
Bohemian Rhapsody has been in the works for over 8 years, and originally Sacha Baron Cohen was in the frame to play Freddie, which could have made for a very different film. It is rumoured Cohen wanted the portrayal to take a more adult turn with more sex and drugs than the final 12A rating would have allowed. I can’t help but agree with some who have said Freddie and the rest of the band have been glamorised slightly – the rough edges have certainly been brushed over at some points.
The pacing of the film can feel rushed at times, and the band do not have much drama or issue getting to the top. They rocket from pub gigs to stadium tours pretty seamlessly. Other cast members do have moments to shine – Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor is good as the Queen drummer and Gwilym Lee looks uncannilylike Brian May. But this is truly Freddie’s show.
The music, particularly the live concert scenes are electric and infectious – you can almost feel all of the blood sweat and tears from the band. The Live Aid concert will give you goosebumps for all of the right reasons – Malek becomes the ever-flamboyant showman, commanding the crowd with all of his might, uncannily like Mercury did all those years ago. Like me, you will be humming these classic songs for days.
Overall, this film is an excitable, optimistic, biopic about one of the most unique bands and front men ever to grace the stage. They said they’d rock you and they sure did.
Guest review courtesy of Hannah Pooley