“Bohemian Rhapsody” is an expansive biopic that captures the triumphs, excesses and derelictions of the throttling supernova that was Freddie Mercury, while moralizing his kindness and loyalty to family and fans.
Rami Malek courageously embodies the formidable frivolities, insecurities and feminine flair of Mercury. Malek is bodacious, vulnerable, darling and noble. He sings, he prances and carries the film confidently with vivacious musical articulation and the rebellious fist-punch that invited crowds into Queen’s megalomania.
Produced along with the surviving members of Queen, Brian May and Roger Taylor, the film awards the controversies of Mercury’s life while crafting an adorable rebel for whom everyone makes concessions – to his detriment.
"Rhapsody” is creatively intoxicating. The mastery of the film is the attention to intimate detail, the uncanny likeness of actors to their real-life counterparts and the astounding replication of Freddie’s vocals by Dove Award winner, Marc Martel, mixed with live recordings of Freddie’s voice and Malek’s crooning. From Brian’s curl-laden pompadour to Roger’s falsetto to scenes intermittently adorned with cats, this love letter to Freddie culminates in the re-creation of the iconic Live Aid performance in 1985. This finale is one of the most sensational, emotionally-fervent, epic scenes of any film. Malek indistinguishably recreates Freddie’s movements, expressions and energy graced with exquisite cinematography that flows seamlessly from face shots to grand views.
Unlike many biopics that focus exclusively on the lead singer, “Rhapsody” gives each member their due and does not shy away from the complex intersection of their lives disrupted by Freddie’s orbit. Freddie’s soul mate, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), is portrayed as one who maintains an intimate, psychic connection with him. Their love remained true as Austin endured Freddie’s debauchery, promiscuity and untimely death.
Brian May (Gwilym Lee) is the level-headed maternal figurehead of the band. Eveready with boundaries and discipline for Freddie’s perpetual tardiness and indiscretions, he is frequently thwarted by Paul Prentar (Allen Leech), Freddie’s wingman, and the seductive devil-on-his-shoulder. Prentar was particularly despised by bandmate, Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), who found Prentar’s horde of cocaine and male escorts to be detrimental to Freddie’s future. He was right.
Die-hard Queen fans will cheer, chuckle and shed a few tears as they watch the birth of classic songs and the demise of a cherished icon. For fans, this film earns 5 out of 5 Queens.
Fans who know every deplorable detail of Freddie’s life may be aggravated by the lack of attention given to Freddie’s bisexual, lascivious romps and the terror that filled the lives of those who lived in the off-grid sexual orientation closets of the pre-2000s. His HIV/AIDS diagnosis lacks the dread, doom and vitriol of the era. The writers would prefer that viewers read between the proverbial lines. For these fans, this film earns 4 out 5 Headbanging Miners.
For those who liked a few Queen songs or just enjoy an energized biopic, Malek’s performance is captivating and eclipses “Rhapsody’s” habitual rocker-film plot: Rocker loses their virginity to music’s Siren call, rocker abuses friends and family for the love of music, friends and family distance themselves from the rocker, rocker goes on sex/drug benders. Rocker dies. For these fans, the film may earn a 3 or 4 out of 5 Hair-Teased Miners.
While there are numerous documentaries and videos that fans can watch to nit-pick the truth from fiction, a short interview with Freddie’s mum, Jer, is endearing.
Interviews with Mercury show he felt alone in a sea of love, yet the film is fast-paced and doesn’t dawdle in scenes that will suck the energy from the whimsy of Mercury’s sun. “Rhapsody” summarizes the intersection of Queen’s music and artistry with Freddie’s determination to live life free of labels and constraints.
This is framed poignantly in one of Malek’s exquisite monologues, “I’m exactly the person I was always meant to be. I’m not afraid of anything.”