Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of Queen’s formation and follows the band until the Live Aid concert 1985 (which many still say is the best concert in history).
I’ve got good news and bad. The good news is most people will be happy with this film and all but the most curmudgeonly entirely entertained by it.
Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury is so exacting and specific it feels like he was possessed by the ghost of Freddie himself.
During the concert scenes there are moments you’re convinced it’s original footage of Freddie. But it’s not – it’s all Rami (except his singing voice which is admittedly mostly Freddie).
Of all the elements to get right in a movie about Queen the music is the most important and they really knock it out of the park.
But here’s the bad news. Bohemian Rhapsody is a revisionist history conceived by three band members who, it turns out, have been pretty jealous of Freddie their entire lives and decided to work out those issues on the big screen.
Mercury is portrayed as a pest the band must put up with, instead of the reason it’s famous. I’m sure, like everyone, Mercury had moments he wasn’t easy to deal with. Difficult may even have been his default mode.
But whatever his temperament, he was a front man with a level of talent the likes of which we haven’t seen since. The hard truth is Freddie Mercury WAS Queen.
Melodrama is also manufactured to add depth to a shallow tale, instead of digging deeper to tell the truth about the difficulties of being together in a band 20 years. It struggles with homophobic undertones – painting Mercury’s sexuality as the root of his issues, yet presenting a PG version of that sexuality and never allowing Mercury to become more than the caricature of a diva rock star.
It is an utter waste of Malek’s performance to let him only dip his toe into who Mercury was. And the film ends with Mercury telling the band about his HIV diagnosis as they rehearse for the Live Aid concert. He then puts on a show-stopping performance and walks off stage – implication being he dies soon after.
In truth, the Live Aid concert took place in 1985 and Mercury wasn’t diagnosed until 1987, so it’s a total fabrication meant to imbue an iconic performance with additional significance.
The truth is, the performance didn’t need significance added, but the rest of the film does.
Had its makers told the truth, about the struggles of working together and creating out-of-the-box music with a gay front man at a time it wasn’t acceptable, Bohemian Rhapsody might have had authentic significance instead of contrived, superficial fiction.
But in perfect Freddie Mercury style, Malek’s performance steals the show and ultimately makes Bohemian Rhapsody an entertaining celebration of the music we all know and love.
Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia