“Bohemian Rhapsody,” directed by Bryan Singer, is a two-hour and 15-minute love letter to the band Queen with great intentions, but poor delivery. All biopics face the struggle of entertaining an audience while remaining historically accurate. It is also difficult for the audience to know what is or isn’t accurate.
While the audience easily accepts all of the song performances as true, the moments that fill the gaps are the most confusing. According to Stephen Daw in “What Freddie Mercury Biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Got Right and Wrong About the Life of Queen’s Frontman,” it took much longer for Mercury to become bandmates with Brian May and Roger Taylor. In “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Mercury simply walks outside of bar and sings a few notes after the band’s former bassist and lead singer has just quit. This scene, along with slower, more intimate moments, is starkly juxtaposed against high-energy performances, giving the audience too much time to consider what is fact and what is filmic. According to Daw, the film also inaccurately inserts Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis into the series of events in the film’s third act. Daw says that most accounts report that Mercury found out about his diagnosis in 1987; however, in the film, Mercury tells his bandmates of his diagnosis two years earlier. While it was of course important to include Mercury’s diagnosis, as it eventually led to AIDS-induced pneumonia and his subsequent death, it seems that the chronological order was shuffled around for the sake of the film’s run time.
Historical inaccuracies aside, one of the shining aspects of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that distracts questioning viewers, is actor Rami Malek’s performance as Mercury. Malek, known for “Mr. Robot,” does an exceptional job playing Queen’s lead singer and visionary. The passion Malek brings to both the literal and figurative stage in his performance channels Mercury’s energy and desire to make songs like no one had ever heard before.
At first, Malek’s prosthetic teeth, meant to emulate the singer’s well-known overbite, are comical and difficult to see past. But Malek’s performance goes past the teeth and vivacious outfits. The audience can believe that he is Mercury, and we want him to succeed. The actors who play the other members of Queen — Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon — support Malek’s performance. The chemistry between the four actors creates a believable band dynamic, whether it is true to Queen’s or not. Throughout the film, we see the band members’ rise to fame, arguments, break up, and reunion, all of which are genuine enough to believe they actually happened.
Though the casting is a strong component of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the filmic elements fall short. Within the montages of Queen on various tours, the audience is taken out of the story by unnecessary motion graphics detailing the cities of tour stops. Although this seems like a small issue to have with a film, it took away from the beautiful and tragic story of Mercury’s life, as well as Queen’s rise to fame. This audience member could have done without the primary-color, somewhat random text animations that occur throughout.
Despite questionable filmic techniques and historical inaccuracies, this biopic of Mercury and the band Queen is a visually entertaining film. Audience members can look forward to hearing many of Queen’s hit songs, as well as their lesser-known ballads.