The blame falls on the lopsided directors, as Dexter Fletcher (Sunshine on Leith) had to finish what Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) started: an ambitious and overconfident tribute to iconic rock band Queen and their leading legend, Freddie Mercury. There were many reasons to be worried about this project; Sacha Baron Cohen left the film, originally billed to play the singer, as did Ben Whishaw, before Rami Malek (Mr Robot) was finally cast. Bryan Singer was fired over differences with the band, as Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor served as creative consultants on the film. But there was also hope for its success – how could you possibly ruin the enjoyment of Queen if the musicians themselves are conducting the orchestra?
Headache and disappointment directly result from the glossy, sanitized visuals that sellotape the band’s humanity together without any sense of what it actually means to be the ‘misfits’ they built their whole identity on. There’s no lack of bangers in the neverending jukebox narrative, but instead of providing the springboard for a deeper story, the songs just bang into each other, again and again. There’s barely enough time to process how ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ skips through the airwaves or where ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ is even going as it illustrates nondescript fields and roads in the missing excitement of a debut US tour.
Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and John Mazzello do a fine job of playing the iconic musicians of Queen
The messy, lifeless storytelling cuts short supposedly powerful scenes before they mean anything, and ends sentences before anyone has even finished speaking. This isn't an intimate look at Mercury’s personal life ( which is instead probed in a pantomimic press conference full of fish-eyed mean journalists and irritating sound gimmicks) or a fleshed-out exploration of the mood behind the music. Bohemian Rhapsody tries to be both those things and much more as well, but in its frantic appetite to flag every landmark it loses any emotional grounding.
The young actors give it their all – Malek does a fine job as to honour Mercury’s flamboyance, an impossibly difficult task. Gwylim Lee, Ben Hardy and John Mazzello support the passion as May, Taylor and bassist John Deacon respectively. There is an uncanny resemblance that deserves a laugh and a patience that hints at what their friendship could have meant. But if the actors are doing their job, the story is not. Important and painful relationships are smoothed over in family-friendly high definition, as Mercury’s emblematic affinity for underground gay clubs gets no more than a brief cameo in a makeshift music video for ‘Another One Bites the Dust’. His sexuality isn’t erased, but in a narrative that treats people like puppets, any complexity is completely undermined.
Where the original Live Aid footage shows Mercury connected to the sea of fans, brimming with an incomparable fire, the recreation in Bohemian Rhapsody is drenched in bathos. Random cutaways of incidental strangers are spliced between song lyrics too often, the anthemic moment just becomes unfairly annoying. The music of Queen will live forever, but this fan hopes the tone-deaf and overpriced piece of tat will not.
|What||Bohemian Rhapsody film review|
24 Oct 18 – 24 Oct 19, TIMES VARY
|Price||£ determined by cinemas|
|Website||Click here for more information|