November 7, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

Oh, hello, your majesty. You want us to change the band's name?

Bohemian Rhapsody is like the Journey episode of “Behind the Music.” It may be refreshing to have a music biopic that does not involve the perils of rock and roll decadence, but it is not terribly melodramatic. For a unique rock band, Queen’s story is so nondescript, no producer would ever make it were it not (presumably) true. And for a movie trying to sell the sum of the band over its most legendary part—Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek)—Bohemian Rhapsody imparts no innuendo regarding guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee), drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) or bassist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello, the Jurassic Park kid all grown up). How do we not get the scene where Brian discovers his distinctive hairstyle for the first time?

The story of Queen is fraught with little conflict and, frankly, seems a tad apocryphal (those origins for “We Will Rock You,” anyone?). The quartet was a small band with one vision; then, they were a big band under pressure. Eventually, Mercury felt separated from his musical family as his secrets and a villainous personal manager named Paul Prenter (the appropriately named Allen Leech, whom you will eventually recognize as “Downton Abbey” actor Tom Branson) kept him from finding somebody to love outside of the band. If Paul’s ’70s/’80s mustache were not so well kempt, he could actively twirl it while plotting to keep Mercury all to himself at the nonstop orgies where the late singer probably contracted HIV. All the while, the rest of the band waits for the hammer to fall if Freddie fails to come to his senses for their legendary Live Aid performance, which the movie wonderfully stages in bulk.

The movie’s most striking feature is “Mr. Robot”’s Emmy-winning Malek; his stance as the flamboyant frontman is both believable and award-worthy. Without his killer queen, Bohemian Rhapsody would be as forgettable as VH1’s “Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story.” The movie would lack any other kind of magic if not for Mazzello’s goofy take on bassist Deaky. Broad, vanilla drama cannot stop the band’s anthems from getting the crowd clapping and stomping along to a movie more akin to “We Will Rock You” than its risk-taking title track. As a longtime Queen fan, I want it all: deep cuts—like why they recorded a soundtrack for Flash Gordon—as well as the greatest hits.