You know a biopic works, when it casts a spell on you, engages you in its world irrespective of your liking or indifference towards its real life characters. It doesn’t matter if you worship them or haven’t heard a Queen song yet; Bryan Singer keeps you glued to your seats throughout as he lets Rami Malek channel his inner Freddie Mercury with astounding precision. Malek reprises Freddie’s unmatched singing-songwriting talent, showmanship, passion for music, flamboyant fashion sensibilities and ability to draw in the audience with a diva-esque swag and conviction.
Singer’s conventional narrative smartly oscillates between the band’s formation, music, success and disagreements as well as Freddie’s inner conflict and simmering loneliness. He seamlessly interweaves Queen’s biggest hits (in Karaoke fashion for you to sing along) with Freddie’s constant quest for answers — on identity, sexuality, love, friendship and a sense of belonging. Though the story keeps you hooked, Rami Malek’s Oscar worthy performance outshines it all. His spectacular act makes Bohemian Rhapsody a film about Freddie Mercury more than the Queen. He infuses soul into the movie and not for once you wonder if Sacha Baron Cohen had been a better choice given his sharper physical resemblance to Freddie.
While the film touches upon Freddie’s early years (born as Farrokh Bulsara, he came from a Parsi family that had roots in India), homosexuality, relationship with fiancée Mary Austin, the woman who inspired his ‘Love of My Life’ ballad and his eventual succumbing to wild ways, this is a film strictly made for the fans and thus is a tamed version. Those expecting to dig deep on ‘Freddie the freak or Freddie the fag’ (in his words), will have to settle for what’s already out there.
What then makes this musical a poignant piece of cinema are its masterful use of devices. Brilliant casting (every actor resembles the character he plays), heartrending performances, soulful songs, emotional confrontations especially the scene between Freddie and his father and heart-breaking anecdotes. “We’re (Queen Band members) four misfits who don’t belong together. We’re playing for the other misfits. They’re the outcasts, right at the back of the room. We’re pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them.” The film wants you to remember the band and Freddie, the way they would want you to and though manipulative, it works.
As Malek takes centre stage in the final Live Aid act as Freddie, the director gives you a glimpse of the moments before he takes the podium. The camera follows him like a shadow. It captures his nervous energy, his pulsating drive to entertain once again and the fighter that Freddie Mercury was. There was more to him than his nonconformist, outrageous and wild shindigs. Bohemian Rhapsody celebrates his undying spirit beautifully through his music. From exploring Freddie’s take on mixing genres, innate desire to taking risks, not wanting to ‘fix’ his teeth to doing the good deeds — this one’s an uplifting tearjerker!