REVIEW: “Bohemian Rhapsody”


When you think of rock-and-roll biopics it’s hard to come up with a better subject than the incandescent and enigmatic Freddie Mercury. As lead singer for the legendary British rock band Queen, the wildly flamboyant Mercury became a household name across the globe. He would perform with Queen for over 20 years until his AIDS-related death in 1991. He was just 45.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” sets out to tell the story of Freddie Mercury starting around the time Queen was formed in 1970 and finishing up with their famous twenty-one minute Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985. In between it hits on a several significant moments in Mercury’s life while making up a few of its own. The results are a by-the-numbers musical biopic that feels pretty basic despite the compelling character at its center.


The embattled Bryan Singer handled the bulk of the direction before being fired due to constant no-shows and clashes with the cast and crew most notably the film’s star Rami Malek. Dexter Fletcher replaced Singer with around two-thirds of the movie shot and ready for post-production. I’ll let others figure out which one deserves the most credit and/or the most blame for how things turned out.

Rami Malek is easily the film’s biggest strength. He seamlessly maneuvers between the two sides of Freddie Mercury – the shy and intensely private man and his garish, energetic stage persona. He deftly unveils Mercury’s quiet sensitivity and insecurity. But even more impressive is watching Malek lose himself onstage, perfectly reflecting Mercury’s rock-and-roll alter-ego. Whether strutting charismatically or belting out (kinda) classics with a four-octave range. It’s amazing to watch.

Mercury is very much the centerpiece to the point where the rest of the band almost gets lost in the background. It’s a shame because the movie is best when viewed as a simple celebration of their music. The very best scenes are when the band is together fighting over and making music. That includes a fabulous final twenty minutes which recreates Queen’s Live Aid concert performance and perfectly captures the band’s remarkable chemistry and energy.


But the movie struggles when the focus is solely on Mercury. The filmmakers make several weird omissions and peculiar changes to his timeline. In the film’s most glaring bit of fiction an arrogant and selfish Mercury, enamored by his own stardom, breaks up Queen to pursue his solo career. In reality Queen never broke up. It’s a needless demonization. There is an attempt to representation Mercury’s descent into the grips of drugs and debauchery. It gets the message across but isn’t what I would call enlightening.

So with “Bohemian Rhapsody” you end up with a very safe and conventional biopic that aims more at being a crowd-pleaser than an in-depth character exploration. When viewed in that light it’s a pretty enjoyable film. Malek is fantastic as is most of the supporting cast (Gwilym Lee’s resemblance to Brain May is uncanny). And while I learned nothing new about Queen or Freddie Mercury, the movie concentrates enough on the music to make it worthwhile.



21 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

  1. Completely agree with you. Another thing that I noticed was the terrible editing. It felt like they wanted to show every shot they had every other second. They never gave a shot any breathing room, especially in the first half.

  2. Wait Queen never broke up? So on top of everything else they actually made this up for the film? Oh Jesus, this thing just keeps getting worse and worse

    • Nope! The officially never broke up. Just another weird and rather pointless addition to the ‘personal’ side of the story.

      OH! And you were indeed in my Spam. Not sure what WordPress was doing!

  3. I sung that song many a time. I sound just like the lead singer from Queen. I like competition. I got on that show and sang Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen but they laughed at me when I sang hit me when the wind blows.

  4. nice review Keith. this ended up being my 5th favorite of 2018. it was just an entertaining experience at the theater, a case where i valued how it was done rather than what was done onscreen. Malek suited the role very well.

    • Malek was quite good. I was really into the music making and performing. I’m kinda a sucker for those things. And I truly loved the final 15 minutes or so.

  5. Totally agree . I’m a big Queen fan and have read and watched numerous documentaries on the band and Freddie’s life and this was a bit cookie cutter , saved by Malek in my opinion . Freddie was a compelling character and one of the greatest front men of all time . His life was kinda tragic in my mind . But in Queen and with the audience he found the connection he was longing for in life.

    • I completely agree. He was a tragic figure and the movie kinda conveys that. Unfortunately it does so in a pretty uninspired way and some of its added fiction wasn’t all that effective.

  6. This is more or less where I am at. I think I gave it a C+. It’s fine, but nothing special. Certainly not Oscar worthy, IMO. I do think the Live Aid scene was brilliant though, that’s the best part.

  7. I do want to see the film for its Live Aid sequence and the songs but…. part of me wants to avoid it as it would give me bad reminders of The Doors for how inaccurate it was and the dramatic liberties it took. This is why I’m hoping no one does a bio-pic on David Bowie because a by-the-numbers film version on Bowie would totally fucking suck.

    I want to do a film about Bowie that will be a musical but… it’s all rock n’ roll with multiple actors playing the various personas of Bowie.

    • By the way, isn’t there an Elton John biopic coming out this year (I think they’re calling it “Rocketman”)? Not a Elton fan but I’m curious about it.

      • Yeah, it’s actually directed by the guy who replaced Bryan Singer in Dexter Fletcher. Let’s hope he makes a better film. And the moment I shot my mouth out about a David Bowie movie. Behold, there will be a new movie about David Bowie’s first trip to America called Stardust starring Johnny Flynn as Bowie and my beloved Jena Malone as his wife Angela. Bowie’s son Duncan isn’t happy about it.

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