The story of Queen begins in 1970 with Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), an awkward, flamboyant young man meets with the band name Smile, a half-baked rock band that would later become Queen through the power of Mercury’s charisma and one-of-a-kind singing talent.
The story revolves around two subject matters. One is Freddie Mercury who is a deeply fascinating and moving character. The other is the road of Queen to becoming one of the largest rock bands in history. The script unfortunately struggles to balance the two stories in any meaningful way. The problem is that Queen’s rise progressed smoothly from student gigs to sold-out stadiums in just a few years. There was very little real-life drama between the band, while Freddie Mercury’s life in incredibly fascinating and intriguing.
The film shows the transformation of shy buck-toothed Farrokh Bulsara, the closeted son of African-born Parsis parents who moved to England, into the strutting swaggering Freddie Mercury.
Freddie Mercury approaches a band he likes backstage at a club in London who just lost their lead singer, and Mercury has written a song he wants to show them. The film flashforwards to them performing on stage with Mercury as lead singer. Freddie and his flamboyant movements goes over really well and next thing you know, they're Queen, and they're touring the world. For the rest of the film, the story flips between Mercury’s personal life and Queen creating some of their biggest hits—"Bohemian Rhapsody," "Another One Bites the Dust," "We Will Rock You" with the obligatory scenes of them fighting with the record label.
For those who enjoy Queen’s music and want to know more about the band then this is the perfect film for you. At times it feels more like a musical or a documentary than a biopic. You learn a little about the inspiration behind Queen’s songs as they write them. Although “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a bonafide classic now, when it was released it was just a very weird, unconventional song that didn’t fit the two-minute-radio slot.
The Opening and closing with Queen's triumphant performance at Live Aid in 1985, is 20 minutes of pure rock entertainment. Rami Malek strides around the stage, interacts with the audience and embodies Mercury in almost every way.
From a plot perspective, the film should be more about Mercury’s own struggles with fame and his sexuality and less about Queen’s relatively easy rise to success. Bohemian Rhapsody is a safe, competent, decidedly non-scandalous biopic. It treats the life of Freddie Mercury with cautious affection, happy to play within the rules when depicting a man who did anything but. Unfortunately, Mercury’s sex life and HIV diagnosis are dealt with only briefly, watched in quiet montage, telling audiences no more than they already know. You can sense the concerned involvement of the surviving members of Queen in the film’s politeness. It often has the gentle innuendo of an obituary rather than the inquisitiveness of a biography, rather than any raw edginess that Mercury embodied.
The film's reluctance to deal with Mercury's sexuality is catastrophic because his sexuality is so connected to the art of Queen that the two cannot be separated out. Refusing to acknowledge Mercury’s bisexuality is a deep disservice to Mercury, to Queen, and to Queen fans.