Bohemian Rhapsody (Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Tom Hollander) – Queen was a rock band that is perfectly emblematic of the era between the singer/songwriter and disco ‘70s and the glam and slam music of the ‘90s. Freddie Mercury rounded Queen into an eclectic, unpredictable force that transcended hard rock and pop. He and his bandmates produced hits and anthems that were equally hard rock and lyrical ballads.
Bohemian Rhapsody feels more like The Doors than Jersey Boys. It tells the story of an iconic band with exceptional performances. No attempt is made to duplicate Queen’s sound because all of the songs are expertly lip synched. The good news is that we hear Queen unvarnished.
Rami Malek is mesmerizing as Mercury, the mercurial outsider whose sexual proclivities and onstage presence often overshadowed his musical genius. By no means was Mercury the only talent in Queen. Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) were both outstanding musicians (they were among the producers of the film). More importantly, they were committed to breaking musical barriers and experiment with different musical genres. Malek, with a little help from prosthetics, embodies Mercury. Loving, obsessive, excessive, effeminate, theatrical and reckless, Malek’s Mercury dominates every scene.
Director Bryan Singer, who is drawing headlines for two decades of sexual misconduct rather than this excellent film, explores Mercury’s relationship with his parents, his bandmates, his soulmate (played exquisitely by Lucy Boynton), and various partners. He gives us glimpses into the origin of such classics as We Are The Champions, Another One Bites The Dust, Somebody to Love, Love of My Life, We Will Rock You and, of course, Bohemian Rhapsody. As with many of my favorite films, this one is a flashback. We start and end at the famous Live Aid concert for Africa in 1985 at which Queen performed.
I wish I had seen this movie before now. It truly belongs in the discussion of Best Picture. It is easily one of the best films of the year. Malek’s performance makes him the frontrunner for best lead actor. The fact that he doesn’t sing as Mercury may hurt his chances but probably not. As good as Bradley Cooper is (and it’s a very impressive performance); as great as Christian Bale captures Dick Cheney (it is uncanny in both mannerism and voice); Malek is incredible. Having won an Emmy for Mr. Robot, Malek doesn’t fit any acting stereotype. His casting here is inspired. His performance is transformative.
If you love the music of Queen, do see this film. If you don’t, see this film. It deserved the Golden Globe Awards it won.