REVIEW: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is as nuanced, flamboyant as Mercury himself

Rami Malek stars as Freddie Mercury in 2018 biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Directed by Bryan Singer, the film explores Mercury’s personal struggles as well as the rise of British rock band Queen. (Photo from IMDb)

Colorful costumes. Eccentric music. Bombastic visuals. These three elements best describe the onstage persona of rockstar and queer icon Freddie Mercury. The new biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” captures the essence of rock band Queen and its prominent members, focusing on frontman Freddie Mercury’s life prior to the band’s iconic 1985 live televised performance at Wembley Stadium, which boasted a global audience of over two billion.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is the story of Queen — but more importantly, the story of Mercury’s personal life and his struggles with relationships, sexuality and loneliness. His internal hardships are revealed throughout his revolutionary career as the lead singer of Queen. Eventually, the two storylines of Mercury’s professional and personal lives converge, and his downfall snowballs into that of the band.

The biggest success of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the complexity of Mercury’s character, played by the formidable Rami Malek, who won an Emmy Award for his performance on the television show “Mr. Robot.” The acclaimed actor shows his acting prowess by impeccably emulating Mercury’s British accent and capturing his flamboyant body language and mannerisms both on and offstage.

Malek’s performance lends Mercury’s character a sense of  tragedy and humanity, which grounded the entire film. Like Malek, the rest of the cast shines in their respective roles, Gwilym Lee as Queen guitarist Brian May and Lucy Boynton as Mercury’s best friend Mary Austin effectively complement Malek’s powerhouse performance.

While the engaging soundtrack and captivating performances created an enjoyable cinematic experience, the script felt disjointed at times. The film spends nearly half an hour without contextualizing the audience in the reality of the story, instead offering a glorified montage of Queen’s rise to stardom. After the credits roll, much of the film feels like a mixture of montages and long, expositional dialogues from Mercury about what Queen represents. This glorifying tone makes “Bohemian Rhapsody” feel emotionally hollow at certain points.

While some elements of Mercury’s life appear glossed over, others are wonderfully and wholly represented. For instance, his relationship with Austin, his best friend and lover, is one of the highlights of the biopic. Director Bryan Singer captures their relationship with raw honesty that reverberates throughout the rest of the film. Despite its shortcomings with regard to storytelling, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a charming attempt at a glamorized biography of the band, decorated with endearing acting and an impeccably nostalgic soundtrack.