Directed by: Bryan Singer, Dexter Fletcher (uncredited)
Length: 133 Minutes
There’s a point in Bohemian Rhapsody when a montage of critical responses to the song that the film shares its title with fade in and out onscreen. All of them are fairly negative, but the one that sticks in my mind read “perfectly adequate.” It stuck with me because that is exactly how I would describe this film. It’s kind of a mess early on, but finds its focus in the second half. It’s entertaining, flashy and fun enough, but also less than enlightening. I went into this film knowing little more about Freddie Mercury than what one could gleam from a skim read of his Wikipedia page. I didn’t know anything more about him or the band once the credits rolled.
The film follows Mercury (Rami Malek) from the day he joined the band that would later become Queen and concludes with the legendary Live Aid performance in 1985. The script covers a lot in between but never gets beneath details we already knew. It also feels like a couple different films mashed together, likely in no small part to initial director Bryan Singer being replaced (reportedly because of family issues and #MeToo accusations) by Dexter Fletcher, whose final cut leaves me concerned about his next project: 2019’s Elton John biopic Rocketman.
Singer and Fletcher have made a very accessible and crowd pleasing film at the expense of one that feels as risky and original as the biopic Mercury deserves. Yet, much of it is enjoyable because Malek is amazing, the music is legendary and the concert sequences sweeping. I just hope, perhaps naively, that Fletcher dives deeper, and embraces the prospect of a bitchy R rating, with Rocketman.