I had been looking forwards to this. Queen were a great band, the reviews had been enthusiastic, but the experience of watching it fell short of my expectations.
The entire film felt contrived, a construct by Brian May and Roger Taylor. The pre Live Aid schism was inadequately explained, and flawed , the gratuitous multicultural crowd shots during Live Aid were historically inaccurate. The narrative a disjointed cut and paste.
Mercury’s compulsive sexual behaviour is awkwardly shown, as is his personal relationship with manager John Reid, whose character was poorly written, particularly in contrast to his portrayal in the Elton John biopic “Rocketman”. Aiden Gillen’s Reid here is insipid, and anonymous. There is no hint of his business or sexual prowess, Richard Madden’s portrayal in “Rocketman” smoulders.
The making of the film was disrupted by a false start with Sacha Baron Cohen dropping out as Freddie, and veteran Hollywood Producer Bryan Singer also leaving for Dexter Fletcher to complete the project. It shows. Current Queen manager Jim Beach is on the production team ensuring that the image is as favourable as possible. It feels like a feature length promo.
I found Rami Malek as Freddie irritating, superficial and lightweight. The dynamic of his relationship with Sarah Austin never worked, or was convincing. Lucy Boynton as Sarah Austin performs well, and looks good, yet she feels like a plot device, rather than a person. Malek is strong in being fey and affected, weak in demonstrating the force that Mercury was.
As a film, rather than documentary, it has clearly succeeded. The music is strong, memorable and well presented. But I found the work as a whole unsatisfying.
Comparisons with the contemporaneously released “Rocketman” are inevitable. The distinction is clear. “Bohemian Rhapsody” relies upon the personality of a dead man, and is produced by third parties with a personal interest in the favourable depiction of their supporting roles. “Rocketman” is an Elton John project in which he dares to bare his soul rather than rely upon the music to carry the day.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” taught me nothing. There were no facts or insights of which I was unaware as a music fan. Following the success of the musical “We will Rock You” the film was the logical last piece in the artistic Queen jigsaw. As a stand-` alone music film it is pretty good, but only because of the live music sequences, particularly Live Aid. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page must look on ruefully at the way in which Brian May has kept the money tree blossoming without Mercury.