There is no better Oscar bait than the biopic, and Bohemian Rhapsody, an examination into the life of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, fits the bill perfectly. Mercury is indisputably one of the greatest vocalists to exist, and, to me, he is the best lead singer of all time. Queen is known by essentially everybody under the sun, and even for those who don’t know them by name (if not, where have you been for the last 40 years?), you will definitely know them from songs like “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” They are absolute legends, and it’s about time Hollywood made a film about them.
Unfortunately, the filming of Bohemian Rhapsody has become almost infamous at this point, because of the change of directors halfway through filming. For those not educated in the drama, the director, X-Men’s Bryan Singer, was showing up late and neglecting his responsibilities according to lead actor Rami Malek. On top of that, Singer was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women around this time. Malek complained to the studio, and they fired Singer, who was shortly replaced by Eddie the Eagle’s Dexter Fletcher.
Typically, whenever this much turmoil happens behind the scenes of a film, it shows on screen. Unfortunately, this is no exception.
Bohemian Rhapsody comes up short on almost every level. Some of the only positive traits I could take away from it were Malek’s dedicated performance as Freddie Mercury and the soundtrack (obviously). That’s about it.
I wasn’t alive when Mercury was, but even I can tell when a man’s reputation is slandered on screen. I’m not saying this movie needed to be a propaganda piece about Mercury’s genius, but it didn’t need to make him look like the anchor that was dragging the rest of Queen back. The film doesn’t concentrate on his genius at all. From the beginning, they simply portray him as an eccentric personality who would strut around like he was on top of the world, putting his own needs above that of his band members. I don’t know where they got this information, but this just seems like a portrayal based on stereotype, not on reality.
This movie misses on a whole bunch of aspects of Freddie’s life, but easily the biggest that it gets wrong is its portrayal of his homosexuality. From the instant it is brought up in the film, there is a negative connotation surrounding his sexual preference, which sends an awful message to those struggling with their identity. The film also completely generalizes homosexual mannerisms by making Freddie Mercury seem overly “flamboyant.” If you take a look at Mercury’s actual mannerisms, they are outgoing yes, but not flamboyant. Bohemian Rhapsody takes the fact that he was gay, and injects the stereotypes into his personality. This perpetuates stigmas that shouldn’t exist in society, and casually slips them into viewers minds.
The entire reason that viewers watch biopics is to get some new and interesting information either about a person they already know or a person they are discovering for the first time. The only new information that Bohemian Rhapsody gives us is either uninteresting or just completely false. Every time Mercury or any other members of the band write a famous song, it is just incidental–like they just happened to be playing it in order to get a cheer out of the die-hard Queen fans in the audience. There is absolutely no insight into the creative process that goes behind the writing of their iconic songs, and when there is an attempt, it ends up just being a montage sequence of Malek and crew lip-syncing in the recording studio.
There is also a conflict that lasts the second half of the movie between Mercury and the other members of Queen that was cringe-inducingly fake. The film depicts a falling-out of Mercury and Queen that goes on for years, but in reality this never happened. Mercury did make two solo albums, but they never made the entire band fall apart, and the Live Aid concert that comprises the finale was in no means a reunion.
There are far too many historical inaccuracies in Bohemian Rhapsody to name, which is shameful beyond words. There is absolutely no point to making a biopic if most of the events you depict are based on false information. Not only that, the actual Mercury’s real life was far more interesting than this film made it seem. Mercury spent the first seventeen years of his life in India listening to American music and striving to be a rock star, even forming his own band in his tween years. The first seventeen years of one’s life form who they are as a person, so why wasn’t this depicted? The Live Aid concert would have been far more impactful if we had seen his poor upbringing in India, and it would have given the film an emotional weight that is nonexistent in the version we got.
Rami Malek is good here, but he is not good enough to pull this dumpster fire of a movie together. Remember Freddie Mercury as he actually was, not what this film wants you to think of him. Mercury was one of the best performers ever, and if you want to see why, then looking on his Wikipedia page would be a far better source of information than Bohemian Rhapsody. Few films this year left me as disappointed as this one did. Instead of wasting money on this film, stay home and watch the incredible and iconic Live Aid performance yourself rather than viewing a mediocre recreation of it.
by joel alexander–entertainment editor