Best Picture Countdown: Bohemian Rhapsody

A music-packed ode to Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody is, unfortunately, more style than substance. While the score is sure to entertain any Queen fans, the biopic is far from true to its source material and lacks coherence and a consistent story thread.

The movie is scattered from the opening. Within the span of a few minutes, the focus quickly switches from scenes of Mercury’s home life to a musical performance, to his introduction to his future band-mates, and finally to his first meeting with his future wife. The beginning chaotically sets up up various elements of the plot that never quite come together. Instead, the film jumps from song to song for the majority of its runtime — which isn’t actually a bad thing, as the songs are easily the best part. The issue is that there is little flow or structure to the rest of the movie, making it feel like a garbled greatest hits collection rather than a cohesive story.

The movie’s one saving grace is Rami Malek’s performance as Mercury. Malek does a spectacular job, portraying Mercury both at his loudest and his most vulnerable. Bohemian Rhapsody is Mercury’s story, not Queen’s, and that is due in no small part to Malek, who is at the front and center of every scene. He shines in all of the musical numbers, and his climactic Live Aid performance alone makes the movie worth watching.

This movie is difficult to recommend to Queen fans, who are not hard to come by at Oberlin. On the one hand, if you’re just a casual listener, then this movie is a must-watch. While it has structural issues, it’s entertaining on the whole and is filled with great music. However, if you have followed the band at all then this movie will be nearly unwatchable due to the sheer amount of fabrication. 

Events in the film appear in a completely different order than they originally transpired, and several disagreements and confrontations are completely made up to manufacture tension. The film alters the story of Queen and Mercury drastically, glossing over several of the less savory incidents of Mercury’s life and detracting from much of what made him an icon.

All told, Bohemian Rhapsody can still be enjoyable if you sit back and ignore everything but the music. However, in terms of the actual storytelling, it falls short of the rest of the Oscar nominees. If you can’t watch them all, I would miss this one.