Rami Malek has proven his versatility and talent as an actor in Mr. Robot and Papillon. Now, he has transformed himself into the iconic Freddie Mercury in Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Mercury says, “I can’t think of anyone more outrageous than me,” and it is Malek who brings the extraordinary performer to life for us on the screen.
The movie begins with a glimpse of Queen’s stunning 1985 Live Aid performance, then jumps back to 1970, with Farrokh Bulsara writing lyrics and talking his way into Smile, a rock band that included Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy). With the addition of John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello), the band is complete. By 1973, when they release their first album, they have become Queen, and Farrokh Bulsara has become Freddie Mercury.
Queen’s music plays a prominent part in the movie. There are glimpses of the development of several of their greatest hits, and a longer look at the production of the movie’s namesake hit. After seeing what went into the birth of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” early reviews are splashed across the screen. It is impossible, as a fan, not to be shocked to see that it was initially given poor to lukewarm reviews.
While the emphasis in the movie is on the music and showmanship of Mercury performing with Queen, the audience is also granted peeks into the life of the superstar. Everyone has seen so many portrayals of the excessive rock ‘n’ roll life, it has become a truism. In Bohemian Rhapsody we are given glimpses into that lifestyle, but also of loneliness and the need for connection with family and friends one can trust.
The events of Mercury’s life are painted in broad strokes: his estrangement from his family, his relationship with his bandmates, his longstanding relationship with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). Along the way, there are humanizing elements such as Mercury’s flair for design and his family of cats. He is depicted as the ultimate cat lover, giving his cats monogrammed dishes and their own bedrooms in his opulent mansion.
Finally, the movie returns to Queen’s Live Aid performance. Mercury has decided to perform and not to give in to his illness. It is impossible to leave the theater without the songs of Queen echoing through your head.