“This is where the operatic section comes in!"
"Bohemian Rhapsody" is the most boisterous biopic of the season, the most controversial of the last few years as well, do not though, look at these factors in a good way. Going from awards, nominations, and arbitrary, ceaseless accolades coming from the industry to unsafe firings, serious uproars around the private life of those involved in the movie and harshly mixed opinions between critics, moviegoers and 'Queen' lovers. The music-related cinematic event of the year doesn't go beyond the conventional story of ascent and fall, vice and fame, money-fueled madness and redemption; a frivolous apology that disappointingly gets sidetracked by the shiniest banalities and the primal artistic, personal dilemmas of both Mercury and May, Taylor and Deacon; this flick isn't a true-blue hit, trust me.
Plenty of hiccups in the way of this highly-anticipated but incompetent Hollywood film adaptation; among them is the replacement of an almost perfect Sacha Baron Cohen, which was, allegedly, due to a creative discrepancy between the actor and the producers, who refused to show any somewhat damming material that endangers or hurts the golden legacy of a rock band that broke the mold. Probably, Baron Cohen was right. Now all that's left is to dream of an assuredly R-rated pic, a comprehensive biographical story with powerful chiaroscuros on each member of the family, as well as the cornerstones that made 'Queen' a point in history: their relationships, their sexuality, obsessions, behaviors, hopes, sins, demons and successes; the film centered on mass appeal aspects, as expected.
Let's be honest: the film is pure entertainment, a noisy and shallow spectacle taking advantage of each one of the most emblematic hits of the British band, simulating to deal with the recreations of their properly iconic video clips and striving to deliver unknown answers to the questions about the vicious existence of the Queen frontman. Finding matches in the portrait of real-life footage is entertaining, such as the "I Want to Break Free" music video or its gargantuan finale, however, with a two-hour-plus runtime, is it right to be okay with this, when the brand 'Queen' is involved? I don't think so.
First and foremost, Rami Malek's the only true winner among all this chaos. Malek, a.k.a. Elliot Anderson in Sam Esmail's voracious techno-thriller "Mr. Robot," is, from the outside, Freddie Mercury. The American actor has come up with the role people will recognize him for from now on, not only because of the celebrity he portrays but the fiercely impressive performance he acts proudly on the screen. He's not merely imitating the most representative mannerisms of the outlandish singer, he understands carefully the psychology of a man turned into a legend, he does justice to his role even if the lifeless, sanitized script threatens to mess it up. The way he dances, walks or behaves, his voice in the most ordinary dialogs, the expressiveness of his gaze, the inner struggle to find who he truly is, every detail his performance is composed with, beyond the most discussed such as the fabulous voice — a vocal amalgam between the actor, Mercury himself and Christian rock musician Marc Martel — is what enriches and makes it — with the permission of Christian Bale and Willem Dafoe — the best performance in a mainstream film by an actor in 2018. A tough call is to choose which would be the best interpretation between Malek's brilliant PG-13 performance or the supposedly suggestive, raw R-rated by Baron Cohen. Regardless of your choice, we'd probably have a mind-bending Mercury in front of us.
Having said that, the lead man's brutal showcase aside, some factually-based re-creations are deftly realistic, notably two quick-witted music-videos incorporations and the monumental, unforgettable closing sequence at Wembley Stadium. To say that the 1985's Live Aid re-creation, such a symbolic, meaningful 20-minute performance for the history of rock music, is perfect would be a whopper of a lie; by being gratefully long, its pace and rhythm tend to drop constantly, the editing work is respectful but some cheap CGI crowds and quick cuts feel plainly contrived; nevertheless, the Live Aid performance was the first sequence they filmed for the movie and it is astonishing all along, because of the dimension of the event itself, powerful because of the authenticity and concordance duplicating the epic clip; seeing Malek playing with his crowd and then seeing Mercury do the same is breathtakingly beautiful, and that, keeping in mind such a challenging feat, should be considered a real achievement.
The 80s', as an eye-catching and helpful visual and narrative resource, are depicted in a lackluster but congruent way, the compositions lack energy and spark even speaking about a time where color and brightness were in its greatest splendor. Directed flat-out by Bryan Singer and replaced during the last days of shooting by Dexter Fletcher, the film is not artistically daring, provocative or inspiring, is freely faithful and straightforward, bombastic when it shouldn't, slow-paced and off-and-on when ironically the most gigantic spectacle must come up. The editing work, especially in the quick montages on the concert performances and significant plot knots, is compelling and kinetic, however, pushing the hyperactive cuts out, the biopic loses its touch and starts slowly tearing apart just for rising from the ashes along the last 20 minutes.
"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Bryan Singer and certainly polished by Dexter Fletcher is not, by no means, the "Queen" definitive biopic, nor it is Freddie Mercury's. In short, a conventionally entertaining biographical film only aimed by Rami Malek's pitch-perfect performance. 20th Century Fox's turbulent production will once again make the British band's iconic anthems popular, will once again bring the leading man into the spotlight, will have thousands of angry fans and will please the less fussy ones on the legacy of a group of visionaries who has long been a crucial part in the history of rock music. With a strong supporting cast — especially Lucy Boynton and Ben Hardy, — the all-time great musical support, some impressive re-creations and a performance by Malek for the ages, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is not a boring time at the movies, is an artistic composition that fails on most of its fronts; a look-over as superficial as diluted through the lifetime of five men who found in freedom of expression, queer spirit, togetherness and unique personalities a safe space for perennial memory.