‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is a serviceable, by-the-numbers biography of Freddie Mercury. It doesn’t set out to conquer the world, it just exists to exist. Credited as directed by Bryan Singer, who was fired before the film was finished, the movie feels very corporate, as if put together by a team of scientists in a factory. It tells a story of a life, but never goes deep enough in that life. I will have to say that while it is watchable and engrossing for what it is, it was missing heart, and definitely soulless.
I did not know much about Freddie Mercury going in the film – I didn’t even know he was Pakistani – and I didn’t feel like I knew more about him after seeing the film. I learned of how he got into forming the band Queen, and we get a glimpse of how they became famous. But I never saw what ignited the spark between him. He seems to have been a very complex person – most artists are – but here complexity means two buck toothed prosthetic dentures and a pleated jacket. I know a lot of people feel the character has been whitewashed of its gayness, but that only felt like the beginning of the character’s deficiencies. Relationships are presented but never explored – what was the real core of his relationship with Mary Austin, for example, besides a mutual love of flouncy blouses? This is the kind of film wherein to signify that Mercury has contracted AIDS, we see him sneezing droplets of blood into a Kleenex. Rami Malek, as Mercury gives a dedicated performance, but I was ultimately unmoved by it – even with that performance, the character never came alive for me. And must they really re enact his whole Live Aid performance when the real thing can easily be seen on YouTube? The whole film, to me, felt like a theme park version of a vibrant story and I hope one day we get to see a better retelling of it.