Cinematic Releases: Who Wants To Live Forever: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Reviewed

Freddie Mercury and his brotherhood of musical geniuses are chronicled in the new film, Bohemian Rhapsody, a not so harmonious biopic that rests on a humdrum script that only rises to the occasion for the third act. About the time that Live Aid kicks off, it finally finds some footing with an extended full band scene and a few emotionally amplified moments.

As a portrait of a band that pushed the creative envelope, this is an interesting piece of revisionist musical history that has some of the best casting in ages that truly captures the essence of the rock and roll band dynamic. From highly rendered stage performances to truly captivating studio scenery, most of us that have a love for Queen will find at least something to love about Bohemian RhapsodyHowever, much is left to be desired in a movie that's not allowed to dig too deep into Freddie's personal history, his relationships, his proclivities, or the entire truth. This is paint by numbers biopic fare that deserved a longer run time and a deeper dig into Queen's time as the biggest band in the world. So many details are never expounded on, that it becomes distracting at times. 

Heading into the film, knowing that this feature was under a bit of control by the remaining members of Queen, there are several distinct markers that become quite apparent. It's easy to see the directorial changing of guard. And the front line control of Brian May and Roger Taylor to paint the band in a positive light at all costs while nearly shaming their deceased brother in arms is sometimes a bit unnerving. It's not that this Rhapsody is completely amiss, but it's hampered by a structural confinement that Mercury would never stand for. It's not artistic. It has no harmony. And the setups feel too simple. 

Yet, all is not lost. Rami Malek is in great form as the amazing singer and his support cast each bring their best game to a motion picture that somehow lacks the sexual swagger of its main focal point, which is highly disappointing considering the subject matter. Bohemian Rhapsody needed to flow more like a musical. The songs should have helped define the movement of the film. Instead, we just jump from scene to scene with no real connection to our characters. We're given no background for anyone other than Mercury himself, which also feels a bit lazy and doesn't help us feel sympathetic for May, Taylor, or Deacon. They're only there as a support system when they should have had more central focus on all four of the musicians in Queen. 

This entire project is a balancing act that sadly falters under the dourness of trying to keep it away from an 'R' rating. May and Taylor even scrapped the original version that would have seen Sacha Baron Cohen play Mercury because they wanted to keep it more 'family friendly'. Sadly though, Freddie's life was one of excess and unbridled passion for life's delicious riches, some of which were curtailed for this vision of the film. This doesn't quite play into their demystifying image of Queen and the nearly 'made for TV' feel that this sometimes leans towards. But still, the cinematography is excellent and the concert scenes are immaculate recreations that serve as a time machine back to the '70s and '80s, and of course the sad beginnings of the AIDS epidemic. 

From a troubled production that saw Bryan Singer walk off the set comes the Queen biopic that captures the band's illustrious rise to fame, the public fallout, their tear drenched breakup and eventual career defining performance at Live Aid. Through the eyes of a middling biopic script, the story of one of the biggest bands to ever rock the stage sees a final product that checks all the boxes but ultimately fails to do anything new or original with the concept of the meteoric rise to fame trope. 

Mercury's powerhouse voice is captured as his onstage persona leaps off the screen, but the film simply sticks so closely to playing it safe that only the third act will have fans dancing in their seats as tears well up in their eyes. Freddie was one of the greats. He simply deserved better than this at no fault of Malek's. If anything, this will at least reinvigorate interest in Freddie Mercury, Queen, and their stunning catalog of hit music. Freddie should have lived forever.