Bohemian Rhapsody review – Queen biopic will not rock you

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury is electric but Bryan Singer’s film fails to get to the heart of the frontman’s personal life

That director Bryan Singer (of the X-Men films) was fired from the production weeks before its completion, with Sunshine on Leith’s Dexter Fletcher stepping in to finish the film, is the most exciting thing about his bland Queen biopic. Fans of the band might enjoy watching the movie cycle through their hits (and there are many), but those, like me, hoping for a more robust appraisal of the late Freddie Mercury may find themselves disappointed.

The American-Egyptian actor Rami Malek plays the Indo-Parsi Mercury, wearing a distracting set of false teeth to recreate the singer’s famous overbite and the four extra incisors that supposedly gave him a greater vocal range. But Malek is not the problem; in the on-stage set pieces he’s electric, writhing around the stage with a sexual confidence that Mercury himself would likely be proud of. He’s the flamboyant comic foil to straight man virtuoso guitarist Brian May (a drily funny Gwilym Lee); tender and wrongheaded in scenes opposite Lucy Boynton’s Mary Austin, Mercury’s former partner; at other times vain, arrogant and gifted.

The problem is the tameness of the script, whose narrative begins and ends with the Live Aid concert. Written by Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour, The Theory of Everything), it is ambivalent about the details of Mercury’s relationships and lifestyle as a gay man. Yet it reimagines the timeline of his life, inserting a scene in which Mercury reveals to his bandmates that he has contracted HIV ahead of Live Aid, two years before he was thought to have been diagnosed, in a grasping attempt to give the concert, and therefore the film, additional meaning.

Bohemian Rhapsody – trailer


Simran Hans

The GuardianTramp

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