I’m happy to report that this is not Bohemian Crapsody. I also thank Dexter Fletcher for this movie. Bohemian Rhapsody would never have been completed without him.
Even if Bryan Singer had returned to the production, they could not have waited to assess his ability to finish filming. The only way to keep the actors and crew before their next gigs was to hire another director so Fletcher should get credit, however many scenes of his are in the final cut.
Your mileage may vary on a musical biopic depending on how much you like the artist and their music. As a fan of Queen, I felt energized by Bohemian Rhapsody and even learned some things I didn’t know, like that Freddy Mercury (Rami Malek) was so funny or that he was a cat person. Sorry, spoiler alert on the cats.
The movie seems to have Freddie’s wit. Freddie gets lots of zingers, but the filmmaking itself makes some snarky cutaways, displaying quotes from negative reviews and irreverent edits (like the Bohemian chicken).
Just casting Mike Myers as Ray Foster, the executive who said “Bohemian Rhapsody” would never be a hit song, is clever and subtle (viewers under 30 may not even get why Myers is a joke.)
Malek is a rock star. He pulls off every Freddie Mercury outfit, and he takes up the entire stage when he performs. The rest of the band doesn’t get short shrift either.
You leave Bohemian Rhapsody knowing who each of the other three members of Queen are. Yes, of course Brian May (Gwilym Lee) is the guitarist with the curly hair, but Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and John Deacon (Joe Mazzello) are fleshed out characters too.
The band are the ones who keep Freddie real, with pushback and improvements. You recognize each of their unique contributions, and have some fun at Roger’s expense for writing “I’m In Love With My Car.”
While I am disappointed that there is no sequence depicting the writing of the Highlander soundtrack, I can hope that it will be in the deleted scenes on the DVD. They don’t get to Flash Gordon either, although “Who Wants To Live Forever” is in the movie independently of Highlander.
I do get a kick out of the depiction of Queen creating landmark songs. It seems a lot more organic here than when Ray Charles came up with “Hit the Road Jack” in Ray.
Watching the layers of “Bohemian Rhapsody” form, watching them shift harmonies between left and right speakers in the studio and create new sounds in the studio is magic. They recognized the value of the crowd singing along, so created new songs to include them again.
All the songs are credited to Queen, but when Freddie is demoing them, that must be Malek singing, or maybe they have an isolated vocal track of the real Mercury. It is seamless and does not look like lip syncing in any event.
The filmmaking is impressive, finding captivating reflections of Freddie in his piano. I’m going to guess that the sweeping shots of Wembley crowds are CGI because they couldn’t have refilled Wembley with extras.
Bohemian Rhapsody moves at a crackling pace fitting in Mercury’s Indian Parsi family, the rise of the band, his coming out and descent into drugs and illness, often all at once. As such, the crescendo of the rise and fall and reunion may feel familiar, but it fits the signposts of his life.
Musician biopics can be overplayed, and post Dewey Cox it’s next to impossible to take a lot of those tropes seriously. However, they also have a chance to illuminate a creative life and bring new ears to the music. Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the good ones.
Bohemian Rhapsody opens November 2.