A ‘Rhapsody’ indeed

Tim Powers

[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons” align=”alignright” width=”256″][/media-credit]The sounds of a roaring crowd begin as Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) appears across the screen, mustache and all.

Mercury prepares himself for the crowd with the iconic British rock band Queen reuniting to begin its set at the 1985 Live Aid concert. The film then abruptly cuts to years earlier when the idea of Queen was just a pipe dream in a few kids’ heads. We are then treated to the story of the rise of Queen and its percieved downfall before finally landing back at the first scene of the film where Queen plays at Live Aid. This is the story of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the film that topped the box office in its opening weekend, bringing in $50 million in the North American market.

The first half of the film is somewhat underwhelming in my opinion. This part of the film never reaches any depth. The rise of the band is told too fast, it never feels like the band struggled. There are clear signs of it, such as performing at college parties, and the inclusion of various financial troubles. But it’s quickly swept under the rug in favor of the success. Although, this success never felt earned through the eyes of the film. I believe this is mainly to do with problems with the screenplay. It often feels more like reading a Wikipedia page on the band as opposed to a surreal cinematic experience.

Another problem with the screenplay is the character development. There is very little, in particular with the handling of Mercury’s sexuality. The film has come under fire from some fans of the rock star for its handling of the subject. Fans say that the film attempts to shy away from his male sexual relationships and instead focus on Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin, a woman who he was involved with. In the beginning of the film, it is only implied that Mercury has an interest in men. It is done through a montage sequence rather than giving depth to this part of his story. When the film does begin to dive into the story, it is only ever in relation to Mary. It’s like the creators are afraid to show who Mercury was beyond how it affected his female relationships.

The direction also plays into the general feel of rush and lack of strong storytelling. The production experienced trouble when the film studio, 20th Century Fox, temporarily halted production because of the absence of the film’s director Bryan Singer. Singer was then fired due to his erratic behavior according to The Hollywood Reporter. Filming was then completed by another director, Dexter Fletcher. Singer had been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple people. However, Singer is the sole director credited on the film.

As the film progresses, I believe the writing certainly gets better. The second half of the film is powerful and quite emotional. It handles the back half of Queen’s career with a strong grip. The writing dives deeper into the characters and examines their complexities of themselves as well as the relationships they surround themselves with. It’s a shame that the film achieves this nirvana towards the end of the film. Had it maintained this strong feel throughout, it would have had the power to become a classic biopic, but alas.

One of the film’s saving graces is Malek. The role is not like anything else Malek has ever done, with being mostly known for his roles in the television show “Mr. Robot” and the film franchise “A Night at the Museum.” Malek gives an astounding performance as the eccentric rock star, Mercury. Malek plays Mercury with gusto and force that ultimately pays off in the end. The emotions feel real and earned. Malek disappears into the world of Mercury. This is a performance where an effort was clearly put into the role and award attention would be greatly deserved.

One of the other stronger aspects of the film were the musical sequences. They were energetic and were well directed. Often musical films botch the musical sequences and can never capture the energy the song requires. However, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is not one. They will have you up and singing along.

Overall the film was entertaining. The story of “Queen” was engaging and interesting to watch, despite the flaws of the film. The film brought out many emotions ranging from laughing to crying to singing.