This is a dramatization of Freddy Mercury’s life. His journey is propelled by the rock and roll staples of gargantuan talent, a modicum of luck and enough chemicals to inspire headline grabbing behavior. And that is where the problem lies – we’ve seen it all before. Steeped in the familiar, Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t do justice to the iconic individual who spawned the pop opera genre that is now ensconced in music history.
Freddy was the son of Indian immigrants. He grew up in sixties London, where bands waited in line for gigs in local pubs. He was entranced by the music and it was his impromptu audition on a street corner to two wannabe musicians that gave birth to Queen.
As the years go by, we meet a lot of people from Freddy’s life but they remain strangers as the story flits too swiftly from cradle to grave. It’s not Freddy’s entourage we want to get to know, but they’re the ones who were intimate with the son, the brother, the lover and the friend. It’s their perspectives that are missing.
The dialogue in this drama is decidedly lackluster and the acting does nothing to lift it from its pedestrian path. While Rami Malek is a convincing, if unsympathetic, Mercury, Gwilym Lee (Brian May), Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor) and Joseph Mazzelo (John Deacon) deliver their lines in monotones.
They fail to take us into their world and simply represent the people who played when Freddy sang. In their defense, nothing is done physically to catalyze them from their teenage years and, after a while, it becomes distracting.
The perfunctory oily hangers-on and slippery managers bring no new techniques to the table. But, nevertheless, it’s still entertaining to witness the negative reaction of the EMI head honcho when Queen proudly present him with a song they spent months sweating over. He rants and he raves and then throws the surprised band out of his office.
As they strut out they react in classic rock style by throwing a brick through his window, which is the only time we are really in the moment. Unfortunately, however, the moment is never seized. We don’t know if the brick was launched from indignation that their genius was being doubted, or if they were terrified that, perhaps, their dream was over.
Although there’s nothing to be learned from this film, it is a pleasant stroll down Memory Lane. And Freddy also confirms what Elvis, Prince and so many others keep proving. That if we had talent, success and money; yes, even if we had it all, we’d still find a way to screw up.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
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