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Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody
8 10

It's taken a long time to get BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY made, starting as far back as 2010 when Sacha Baron Cohen was attached to star and Stephen Frears was rumored to direct. Many began to speculate that the film would likely never happen, but that all changed when Bryan Singer signed on to direct and Mr. Robot's Rami Malek was cast as the late, great rock superstar, Freddie Mercury. For fans of Queen, this wasn't just another band biopic; it was something they held near and dear to their hearts. The tragedy, the excess, the performances, the unpredictable nature of the music and the impact it left on the audience; it's a testament to the legacy that is both Queen and Freddie Mercury. How could anyone accept anything less than something amazing in a film that adapts their story?

Thankfully, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is amazing, but maybe not in the way everyone expects or hopes it to be. Rather than a deep-dive, warts-and-all kind of biopic (think Oliver Stone's THE DOORS), this is a celebration of the music and the legacy they built, focusing almost entirely on Mercury in a more straight-forward, but rousing tale. It's a polished retrospective that carries on much like one of Queen's classic tunes; ups, downs, unexpected turns, showy performances and finally a crescendo of melody and harmony that leave you on a high note. It's not a peel-back-the-layers-and-shine-a-spotlight-on-everything-ugly kind of tale, but don't be confused; it doesn't shy away from some of the more challenging moments and relationships, particularly that of Mercury's loving bond with Mary Austin (THE APOSTLE's Lucy Boynton), his sexual journey, his known and admitted reaches into debauchery and his contraction of AIDS as a result. While the film addresses these things, it doesn't revel in them and with a PG-13 rating you can only expect so much anyway. It simply doesn't need the additional fluff.

Bryan Singer has been dabbling mostly in the X-MEN universe of late, so this is a nice departure for him and certainly a better use of his skills. You can feel the passion for the material here and there's some solid creative detours that work quite well, but he's still not a filmmaker that's as refined in style and narrative grace as his directing counterparts. He does a fine job here, particularly in the finale, but I think most will agree that his contribution is simply "fine". Thankfully, the cast is more than up to task to pull their weight, even if some of them don't get the spotlight a little longer. Boynton's Mary Austin is a somewhat tragic character in terms of her relationship with Mercury, but her pain is never put on full display. The band, including Joseph Mazzello (Tim from JURASSIC PARK all grown up) as John Deacon, Ben Hardy (Angel in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE) as Roger Taylor and Gwilym Lee as Brian May (looking exactly like Howard Stern in PRIVATE PARTS), are mostly side players here and we get the tiniest of peeks at their own personal lives, instead keeping the focus on Malek's Mercury. And, well, that's how it should be, but a few bits more on each of them would've been nice and helped balance things out more.

However, Rami Malek is the whole show, so giving him the spotlight makes sense, much like Freddie himself. Malek embodies Mercury completely, right down to the jutting front teeth, on-stage antics and vibrant personality. But, it's not a one-note performance at all. Malek emmulates the pain, the challenges, the despair and longing that perpetuated Mercury's life. From his entrancing stare to his kinetic energy, Malek gives Mercury a cinematic soul that rivals the rockstar one we've adored and revisited for decades. It's the performance that will be remembered most from this film and Malek earns those accolades completely. The entire film hinges on him nailing the performance of Mercury and he does just that. Even if you end up not loving the film, it would be hard not to love everything about Malek's Mercury. It's a signature performance from the actor and more proof that he's a talent that will continue to shine.

The film moves at a brisk pace and rarely takes time to settle into any one event, instead giving us a kind of road trip history of the band's journey to superstardom, with some fun stopovers at key venues and meetings (including a great few scenes with Mike Myers as a crusty record producer) as they head toward a finale at their legendary performance at Wembley Arena for Live Aid in 1985. Another great aspect of the film is how it depicts the band's journey and process in creating some of their greatest songs. Humorous, clever and revealing, it's awesome to see them creating the music that has now become legend and hardcore fans are sure to soak it up. There's also plenty of your standard rock biopic fare with double crosses, slimy agents (and slimier friends), ridiculous parties and the eventual need for redemption. It's almost like a rock fable about Queen than a standard biopic and, honestly, that fits them to a tee. The ending of the film is sure to leave everyone on a Queen high and is a goosebump-inducing show of rock-and-roll power. If you aren't singing Queen on the way out of the theater then you may have slept through the film.

In the end, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY will be a dream come true for most fans and potentially a letdown for those that were hoping for seedier deep dive into rock-and-roll excess, but I feel that's a bit cheap when you're measuring up to what's delivered here; A star-making performance from Malek, a true and genuine celebration of Queen's music and a rousing, inspiring and uplifting finish that will leave you stomping your feet and clapping your hands as the credits roll. It's a near-perfect recreation of this band's journey and one man's fight to share his talent with the world until he left it. I think Freddie would be deeply proud of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, even if he thought it was a bit silly in its almost fairy-tale like execution. But, that's to be expected when you're talking about legends.

Source: JoBlo.com

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