Freddie Mercury was one of the most flamboyant and powerful voices in the rock scene of 70s and 80s. As the front man for the band Queen, he and his band mates created a body of work that has stood the test of time. If ever there was a subject whose life demanded the biopic treatment, Mercury was that guy. Nearly three decades after Mercury’s death from AIDS, and many false starts, that film has finally arrived. I’d like to say that it’s the film that fans have been clamoring for and some may actually enjoy it.
For those looking for a dark and penetrating look at the life and times of a complicated man you won’t find it here though. Instead, Bohemian Rhapsody is the equivalent of the comic book approach to its larger than life subject.
The glue that holds the film together is Rami Malek. He’s sensational as Mercury and there’s no denying that but there’s only so much he can do with the lackluster material with which he’s been given to work. The film hits all the standard notes illustrating the trajectory of Mercury’s path from airline baggage handler to international rock star. Unfortunately, it never goes deep enough. What’s worse is that everyone besides Mercury comes off as a caricature as opposed to real flesh and blood human beings.
As for the ground that it covers, the film begins in 1970 as Mercury chances to join the band and concludes with the Live Aid performance from Queen in July 1985. Strangely, the film leaps from 1976 to 1980 with nary a mention of the three iconic albums they recorded between 1977 and 1979. This is very odd considering that this was one of the creatively fertile periods in their history.
An even bigger complaint to be lodged against the film, however, would be the inconsistencies in the time lines of certain events and glaring inaccuracies. For instance, when Mercury decides to get the band back together for the Live Aid concert in 1985 he mentions that it’s ‘been a while.’ In reality, the band had not broken up and had, in fact, just released an album (The Works) and scored a top forty single (Radio Ga Ga) the year prior. In another scene set in 1980, the band’s management reminds them of an upcoming MTV interview when everyone knows that the channel went on the air in August 1981.
When Queen tours America in 1975, one of the songs they perform is the 1979 hit, “Fat Bottomed Girls.” In yet another scene set in 1980, we see the band creating “We Will Rock You” two years after it was released and had sold millions of copies. I could go on but I believe the point has been made. Suffice it to say that this is sloppy and lazy writing of the highest order. Sloppy enough, in fact, to distract and distance me from the experience of the film.
Another big mistake was making sure this film earned a PG-13 rating just for the sake of making it as mainstream as possible. It’s a calculated move that reeks of desperation. What we needed was a warts and all biopic that left no stone unturned. What we have instead is a terribly wasted opportunity.
Bohemian Rhapsody opens November 1.
Photo: Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.