Bohemian Rhapsody (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Screenplay by||Anthony McCarten|
|Music by||John Ottman|
|Cinematography||Newton Thomas Sigel|
|Edited by||John Ottman|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$779.9 million|
Bohemian Rhapsody is a 2018 biographical film about the British rock band Queen. It follows singer Freddie Mercury's life from his joining the band in 1970, to their Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985. The film is a British-American joint venture produced by 20th Century Fox, New Regency, GK Films, and Queen Films, with Fox serving as distributor. Directed by Bryan Singer, it is written by Anthony McCarten, and produced by Graham King and former Queen manager Jim Beach. It stars Rami Malek as Mercury, with Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, and Mike Myers in supporting roles. Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor served as creative and musical consultants on the film.
Bohemian Rhapsody was announced in 2010, with Sacha Baron Cohen cast as Mercury. After Baron Cohen left the project in 2013 following creative differences with producers, the project languished for several years before Malek was cast in November 2016. Principal photography began in London in September 2017 with Singer as director. In December 2017, Singer was fired for absence and clashing with the cast and crew, and Dexter Fletcher was hired to complete the film. Singer retained sole director credit as per Directors Guild of America guidelines, while Fletcher received an executive producer credit. Filming concluded in January 2018.
The film was released in the United Kingdom on 24 October 2018 and in the United States on 2 November 2018. The film has become a massive box office success, grossing over $779 million worldwide on a production budget of about $50 million, becoming the eighth-highest-grossing film of 2018 worldwide and setting all-time box office records for the highest-grossing musical biographical film, the highest-grossing biopic, and the highest-grossing traditional drama film. It received mixed reviews from critics; its portrayals of Mercury's life and sexuality and of the other band members were criticised, but Malek's performance and the music sequences received praise. The film also contains a number of historical inaccuracies. Despite this, the film received several accolades, winning Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Actor – Drama (Malek) at the 76th Golden Globe Awards, and also received nominations for the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture, BAFTA Award for Best British Film and Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. For his performance, Malek has received nominations for the Critics' Choice Award, BAFTA Award and Screen Actors Guild Award, among others, for Best Actor.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Music
- 5 Historical accuracy
- 6 Release
- 7 Reception
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In 1970, Farrokh Bulsara, an Indian-British Parsi college student and baggage handler at Heathrow Airport, watches a local band who he has been following for a while, named Smile, perform at a nightclub. After the show, he meets Smile guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, and offers to replace their singer Tim Staffell, who had just quit earlier that night. With the addition of bassist John Deacon, the band – now known as Queen – play gigs across Britain until they sell their van to produce their debut album. Their musical style lands them a contract with EMI Records. At the same time, Farrokh legally changes his name, now going by Freddie Mercury and becomes engaged to Biba shop assistant Mary Austin. The album hits the charts in America, and, during the band's U.S. tour, Freddie begins questioning his sexuality.
In 1975, Queen record their fourth album, A Night at the Opera, but leave EMI when executive Ray Foster refuses to release the six-minute song "Bohemian Rhapsody" as the album's lead single. Freddie has DJ Kenny Everett debut the song on the radio. Despite mixed reviews, "Bohemian Rhapsody" becomes a smash hit. Following a world tour, Freddie begins an affair with Paul Prenter, the band's day-to-day manager. Mary breaks up with Freddie when he comes out to her as bisexual, although she assures him that he is gay.
The band's success continues through to the early 1980s, but tensions arise over the direction of their music and changes in Freddie's attitude resulting from his relationship with Paul. In 1981, after a lavish party at his home, Freddie falls for Jim Hutton, a waiter at the party. They soon part ways, with Jim telling Freddie to find him when he learns to like himself. A press conference to promote the 1982 album Hot Space is hijacked by the press, who bombard Freddie with questions about his personal life and sexuality, which Freddie responds with insults and refusals towards the press.
Freddie's relationship with his bandmates sours when he announces that he has signed a $4 million solo deal with CBS Records. He moves to Munich in 1984 to work on his first solo album Mr. Bad Guy and engages in gay orgies with Paul. Mary, now pregnant, visits and urges him to return to the band, as they have been offered a spot in Bob Geldof's benefit concert Live Aid at Wembley Stadium. Discovering that Paul withheld this news from him, an enraged Freddie severs ties with him. In retaliation, Paul goes public about Freddie's sexual escapades.
Freddie returns to London to ask for forgiveness from his bandmates and manager Jim Beach. They are reconciled and are given a last-minute slot in Live Aid. With the outbreak of AIDS spreading worldwide, Freddie discovers that he is infected. He reveals this to his bandmates during a rehearsal, and they embrace. On the day of Live Aid, he is reunited with Hutton and Mary, and reconnects with his family with his father's Zoroastrian maxim, "Good thoughts, good words, good deeds." The band perform at Live Aid, performing "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Radio Ga Ga", "Hammer to Fall" and "We Are the Champions". The Live Aid set is a massive success, helping increase the rate of donations during the event.
- Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury / Farrokh Bulsara, lead vocalist of the rock band Queen
- Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin, Mercury's girlfriend
- Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Queen's lead guitarist
- Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, Queen's drummer
- Joe Mazzello as John Deacon, Queen's bass guitarist
- Aidan Gillen as John Reid, Queen's manager
- Allen Leech as Paul Prenter, Mercury's personal manager
- Tom Hollander as Jim Beach, Queen's lawyer turned manager
- Mike Myers as Ray Foster, an EMI executive
- Aaron McCusker as Jim Hutton, Mercury's boyfriend
- Meneka Das as Jer Bulsara, Mercury's mother
- Ace Bhatti as Bomi Bulsara, Mercury's father
- Priya Blackburn as Kashmira Bulsara, Mercury's sister
- Max Bennett as David, Mary's new boyfriend
- Dermot Murphy as Bob Geldof
- Dickie Beau as Kenny Everett
- Jack Roth as Tim Staffell, vocalist of the rock band Smile
- Neil Fox-Roberts as Mr. Austin, Mary's father
- Philip Andrew as Reinhold Mack
- Michelle Duncan as Shelley Stern
- Jess Radomsky as Cheryl
- Adam Rauf as young Farrokh Bulsara
- Adam Lambert as Truck Stop Guy
Plans for a film about Queen were revealed in September 2010 by the band's guitarist Brian May. Covering the period up to Live Aid in 1985, the film was to feature Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury, with Graham King to co-produce, and Peter Morgan to write the screenplay.
May confirmed in April 2011 that the production was moving forward. He strongly approved of the casting of Baron Cohen, but also had certain reservations about the possible direction the project might take. The band's concerns focused on avoiding any harm to Mercury's legacy. In July 2013, Baron Cohen left the project due to creative differences. Allegedly, he had wanted a "gritty R-rated tell-all" focused on Mercury, while the band hoped for a PG-rated film about the band. May confirmed later in 2013 that Baron Cohen had left the project on good terms. Comments by May and Roger Taylor suggested that Baron Cohen was too well known as a comedian and prankster (due largely to his fictional personae Ali G and Borat), and that his presence in the film would be distracting.
In March 2016, Baron Cohen spoke about misunderstandings with the surviving members of the band about the intended subject and events of the film, in particular whether the story ought to continue past Mercury's 1991 death. He also mentioned artistic disagreements with the band over the composition of the production team, referring specifically to the involvement of Morgan, David Fincher, and Tom Hooper.
Following Baron Cohen's departure, in December 2013, Ben Whishaw was mentioned as a possible replacement to play Freddie Mercury. Also at this time, Dexter Fletcher was selected as the film's director. Fletcher removed himself from the project early the following year, amid reports of creative disagreements with King. In August 2014, Whishaw suggested that the film was not progressing well and that there had been scripting problems. Whishaw exited the project seven months later. Rumours followed in 2015 that Baron Cohen had rejoined the project, or that Whishaw might return.
In November 2015, screenwriter Anthony McCarten became attached to the project, which now had the working title of Bohemian Rhapsody after Queen's song of the same name. Developing a fresh take on the story from his interviews with May and Taylor, he delivered his first draft in February 2016. A year later, director Bryan Singer was in talks to take over the direction of Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami Malek was cast to play Mercury, and the film was being fast-tracked by 20th Century Fox and New Regency. It was reported elsewhere in 2015 that Johnny Flynn was due to play Roger Taylor, and that Gemma Arterton would play Mercury's partner Mary Austin.
In May 2017, Malek confirmed that he had conducted recordings at Abbey Road Studios and had consulted Taylor and May directly. The same month, Entertainment Weekly reported that Taylor and May were serving as the film's music producers. In August 2017, Justin Haythe was revealed to have penned another draft of the script.
On 1 December 2017, The Hollywood Reporter reported that 20th Century Fox had temporarily halted production due to the "unexpected unavailability" of director Bryan Singer, with sources saying that Singer had failed to return to the set after the Thanksgiving week, leaving producers nervous about the state of production and started discussions about potentially replacing him, at which point cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel had to step in and direct during Singer's non-showings. Singer's absence was reportedly due to "a personal health matter concerning Bryan and his family". Other sources, however, claimed that star Rami Malek and the crew had grown tired of Singer's behaviour, the director reportedly showing up late to set and repeatedly clashing with Malek. On 4 December 2017, Singer was fired as director, with about two weeks of scheduled principal photography remaining.
On 6 December 2017, Dexter Fletcher was announced as Singer's replacement and on 15 December, filming resumed with Fletcher directing. Fletcher later estimated that two-thirds of the principal photography had been completed when he joined the production, saying, "I came into the last few weeks of principal photography and editing and the bits and pieces like that... I was looking at two complete [acts] in a good film, and [I had to] not let it down."
On 16 January 2018, Brian May uploaded a photo on his Instagram account on the set of the film and said:
Today, under the auspices of our new supreme pilot, Dexter Fletcher, I got my own directorial chair! I was very touched. So! My first day on the set of Bohemian Rhapsody the Movie for more than 6 weeks, and the atmosphere is massively warm and joyful. The entire BR company has been through storms which would have sunk many a ship, but they're all still on board, full of optimism – and with a team spirit stronger than ever. There's such a great feeling of pride in this movie. I wish I could show you pictures ! But for now it's good to protect the surprises. The Bohemian Rhapsody ship is on course !! With full steam up ! Bri.
On 4 November 2016, it was announced that Rami Malek would star as Freddie Mercury. The producers saw his work on Mr. Robot. He had to do a pre-recording at Abbey Road Studios, which was sent to Queen members for approval. On 21 August 2017, additional cast members were announced, including Ben Hardy as drummer Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee as lead guitarist Brian May, and Joseph Mazzello as bass guitarist John Deacon. On 30 August 2017, it was reported that Allen Leech had been cast in the film to play Mercury's personal manager, Paul Prenter, who worked for him from 1977 to 1987, when he was fired for betraying Mercury by selling his personal information to UK newspapers.
On 6 September 2017, Lucy Boynton was cast to play Mercury's long-term girlfriend, Mary Austin. Lindsey Stirling, Bryce Dallas Howard, Maria Bello and Ashley Johnson were also considered. On 11 September 2017, Mike Myers joined the cast to play EMI executive Ray Foster, and on 22 September 2017, Aaron McCusker was added to play Mercury's long-term boyfriend Jim Hutton. On 26 September 2017, it was announced that Aidan Gillen had been cast as John Reid, Queen's second manager, from 1975 to 1978, who took over from Norman Sheffield of Trident Studios; while Tom Hollander was set to play Jim Beach, Queen's third manager, who took over from John Reid in 1978.
Pre-production began in July 2017 in the United Kingdom, with principal photography beginning in London in September 2017. An exact replica of the 1985 Live Aid set at Wembley Stadium was created and brought to Bovingdon Airfield near Hemel Hempstead, where it was set up for rehearsals on 7 September 2017, with extras on set. There were about a hundred extras, who were all individually scanned 360° and digitally replicated to imitate a larger crowd. The entire Live Aid performance was filmed, but in the final cut "We Will Rock You" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" were cut out.
Queen archivist Greg Brooks was instrumental in helping recreate each scene to make it as true to life as possible. He worked daily with Fox for months from the beginning, providing answers to questions.
When Malek was contacted about playing Mercury, he had only a casual knowledge of Queen. To become Mercury, Malek had to work many intense sessions with a movement coach (as well as learn to talk with prosthetic teeth). Besides examining Mercury's movements, they also watched footage of Liza Minnelli, who was an inspiration to Mercury's stage moves. Malek also took singing and piano lessons, and had an accent coach, as well. Malek said, "I had to re-create things he did on the fly, onstage. There were many days I said to myself, 'This is a lost cause.'" After finishing the film, Malek said that he became a "Queen super-fan", saying, "I see Freddie as the best performer of all time... I never ceased to be astonished by this man."
While Malek sang some parts in the film, producers inserted vocal stems from Queen songs as well as filling in parts with Canadian vocalist Marc Martel, a winner of the Queen Extravaganza Live Tour auditions.
According to the Directors Guild of America, only one director can be named for a film, and the DGA has sole control over who that will be. Although Fletcher replaced Singer on the set before filming was completed, producer Graham King announced in June 2018 that Singer would receive the directing credit on the finished film. Fletcher received executive producer credit.
John Ottman, a frequent collaborator of Singer, composed the film's score. An official soundtrack album was released by Hollywood Records and Virgin EMI Records on CD, cassette, and digital formats on 19 October 2018. The album contains several Queen hits and 11 previously unreleased recordings, including five tracks from their 21-minute Live Aid performance in July 1985, which have never before been released in audio form. A release on vinyl is set to follow in February or March 2019.
In an interview, screenwriter Anthony McCarten explained that, for dramatic impact, some historical events are portrayed out of order in the film, adding: "we're making a movie here, not a documentary". Rolling Stone, while acknowledging the need for dramatic licence, noted several historical inaccuracies in the film:
Regarding the band
- The formation of Queen was not as simple as portrayed in the film. Mercury met Staffell at London's Ealing Art College, where they studied graphic design. Staffell even taught him some chords on the guitar. "We were both part of the same social circles, which happened to revolve around bands at the time," said Staffell. "Freddie had his own band. I remember going to one of Freddie's bands (Ibex) in Liverpool at the time. And he used to come and see Smile." Smile keyboardist Chris Smith recalled, "I think Freddie was there in the wings when we first played. He was full of suggestions, full of ideas. I said to Brian, 'Fred is desperate to be in this band, you know', but Brian was like, 'No, no, no, Tim is the lead singer. He'd never wear it.'" May told Mojo in 1999, "Roger and I were left with no group. We wondered if we should give up." Roger Taylor added, "Freddie sort of got us and said, 'C'mon on, you can't give up. I want to sing.'"
- John Deacon was not the original bassist, but the fourth.
- The character of Ray Foster is fictional and loosely based on EMI chief Roy Featherstone. While Featherstone and others thought that "Bohemian Rhapsody" was too long to be released as a single, Featherstone was a fan of the band.
- Mercury was not the first member of Queen to release a solo album: Taylor released Fun in Space in April 1981 and Strange Frontier in June 1984. May released Star Fleet Project in October 1983. Mercury's Mr. Bad Guy was released in April 1985.
- Queen never split up, so Live Aid was not a reunion. They released The Works in early 1984 and then toured it all over the world. The last show of the tour was just eight weeks before Live Aid.
Regarding Mercury's personal life
- According to Vanity Fair, the film leaves out many details about Mercury's relationships with Mary Austin and Jim Hutton, "tweaking and glossing over precious facts".
- Mercury did not meet Mary Austin on the same night he joined the band; Jim Hutton was not a servant at one of Mercury's parties, he was a hairdresser at the Savoy Hotel who first met Mercury at a nightclub.
- The film's treatment of Mercury's HIV diagnosis received particular criticism, with Jasper Rees describing it in The Spectator as "the most callous rearrangement of the facts". The time at which Mercury learned he had HIV is disputed but is usually given as occurring between 1986 and 1987, not before Live Aid in 1985 as depicted in the film, and the other members of the band were not made aware until 1989.
The world premiere of Bohemian Rhapsody took place in London at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on 23 October 2018. It was released in the United Kingdom on 24 October 2018 in IMAX and the United States by 20th Century Fox on 2 November 2018. The film was previously scheduled for release on 25 December 2018. In November 2018, John Ottman announced in an interview that an extended version of the film with cut-out scenes may be released, in a yet unknown format. On 1 January 2019, it was announced that there will be special sing-along screenings simultaneously in cinemas across the United Kingdom with the first screening at Leicester Square’s Prince Charles Cinema with others on 11 January 2019. There were also many sing-alone screenings in South Korea and Japan.
The official website for the film announced that it would be released in the United States on DVD, Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray on 12 February 2019; while digital release scheduled for 22 January. The UK digital release was scheduled for 16 February 2019 with DVD and Blu-ray/4K Ultra HD on 4 March 2019. The home release included an extended version of the Live Aid sequence.
The teaser trailer for the film was released on 15 May 2018 and with more than 5 million views in the first 24 hours, it was the top trending video on YouTube. Television writer and producer Bryan Fuller argued that the trailer favours Mercury's relationship with women as opposed to his ones with men while also highlighting the absence of the singer's AIDS diagnosis from the synopsis. Instead, it's simply referred to as "a life-threatening illness". Executives stated that the film would still acknowledge Mercury's gay relationships. With the release of the trailer, Queen had three of the top 20 positions on Billboard's Hot Rock Songs chart: "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Another One Bites the Dust" and "We Are the Champions".
On 11 June 2018, at CineEurope, a showing of the film Bohemian Rhapsody closed the show with appearances by Rami Malek, producer Graham King, and special appearances by Brian May and Roger Taylor, who were playing a concert of Queen + Adam Lambert in Barcelona.
As of 17 January 2019[update], Bohemian Rhapsody has grossed $199.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $580.2 million in other territories (including $64 million in the UK), for a total worldwide gross of $779.9 million, against a production budget of about $52 million. On 11 November, it surpassed Straight Outta Compton ($201.6 million) to become the highest-grossing musical biographical film of all-time worldwide. Bohemian Rhapsody also set all-time box office records for the highest-grossing musical biographical film, the highest-grossing biopic, and the highest-grossing traditional drama film.
In the United Kingdom, the film had preview screenings on its opening night of 24 October 2018, grossing £1.62 million ($2.08 million) from 575 venues, with a per-screen average of £2,817 ($3,612). It went on to gross $12.5 million from 1,250 screens in its opening weekend, finishing first at the box office. It grossed another $7.4 million in its second weekend, remaining at number-one and grossing £20.4 million ($26.15 million) through 12 days.
In the United States and Canada, Bohemian Rhapsody was released alongside The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and Nobody's Fool, and was originally projected to gross $26–30 million in its opening weekend. By the week of its release, weekend estimates had reached $35–40 million. It made $18.4 million on its first day, including $3.9 million from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $51.1 million, topping the box office and marking the second-best opening ever for a musical biopic behind Straight Outta Compton ($60.2 million in August 2015). The film made $31.2 million in its second weekend, finishing second behind newcomer The Grinch, and $15.7 million in its third, finishing behind Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and The Grinch. In its fourth weekend the film made $13.8 million (including $19.3 million over the five-day Thanksgiving frame), finishing fifth. On 1 December, it passed $162 million at the domestic box office, surpassing Straight Outta Compton as the highest-ever musical biopic in the United States. In its 10th weekend of release the film was added to 199 theaters from the previous week for a total of 1,080, and made $2.4 million.
In its second weekend of international release, the film topped the worldwide box office, grossing $72.5 million in international markets. New markets included France ($7.7 million), Mexico ($5.8 million), Germany ($5.7 million) and Australia ($5.7 million). By its fourth weekend the film was still holding strong, adding an additional $45.5 million from 78 markets, for a running total of $256.4 million. Through four weekends of international release, the film's largest markets were the UK ($45.3 million, passing La La Land), followed by South Korea ($24.5 million), France ($18.38 million), Australia ($16.8 million) and Mexico ($15.5 million). On 12 December, the film surpassed $433 million at the international box office, becoming the highest-grossing musical biopic ever overseas.
In South Korea, the film debut at number two in the box office and by the fourth week took over the number one spot. After a short drop for two weeks, the film reclaimed the number one spot in its seventh week, which is a first for a Hollywood movie. As the largest grossing market outside of North America, the film has amassed $75.6 million as of 13 January 2019 and has become the sixth-highest grossing foreign film in South Korean history with more than 9.78 million tickets sold and is the most successful music film ever released in South Korea. The film's third largest grossing market was Japan, where it grossed $75 million.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 62% based on 335 reviews, and an average rating of 6.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Bohemian Rhapsody hits a handful of high notes, but as an in-depth look at a beloved band, it offers more of a medley than a true greatest hits collection." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 49 out of 100, based on 50 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an 88% positive score and a 75% "definite recommend". The critical response to Bohemian Rhapsody made it the worst-reviewed film to win a Best Picture award at the Golden Globe Awards since Out of Africa in 1986.
Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote: "Rami Malek does a commanding job of channeling Freddie Mercury's flamboyant rock-god bravura, but Bryan Singer's middle-of-the-road Queen biopic rarely lives up to the authenticity of its lead performance." Paul Whitington, writing for the Irish Independent, gave the film 3/5 stars, saying: "Bohemian Rhapsody is not big on subtlety: it tells Freddie's story loudly, taking dramatic shortcuts, over-neatly conflating events and reducing most of the surrounding characters to single dimensions. Some of the dialogue's a bit heavy-handed too, but I must say I was thoroughly entertained." For the Evening Standard, Craig McLean wrote: "Bohemian Rhapsody is triumphant entertainment. The post-production special effects have done their job: the Live Aid scenes are convincingly epic. The actors have done their job, too, notably Malek, who oozes pure Mercury." For Time, Stephanie Zacharek wrote: "In strict filmmaking terms, Bohemian Rhapsody is a bit of a mess. Some of its scenes connect awkwardly, and it hits every beat of disaster and triumph squarely, like a gong. Yet if it has many of the problems we associate with 'bad' movies, it has more ragged energy than so many good ones, largely because of Rami Malek’s performance as Mercury, all glitter and muscle and nerve endings." She described it as "a movie for sensualists, not quality-control experts".
Chief Guardian pop critic Alexis Petridis described the portrayal of Mercury as "sanitised", writing: "Bohemian Rhapsody is a film that plays so fast and loose with the truth, it ends up seeming faintly ridiculous: you start out nitpicking about minor chronological errors... and end up with your jaw on the floor." Guardian film critic Steve Rose described it as a "rock slog with a troubling moralistic subtext". Although he praised Malek's performance, David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a grade of "D+", criticising Singer's direction and calling the film "royally embarrassing". He wrote: "Queen's music may have been unclassifiable, but their movie is as trite and textbook as it gets." He described the film as a "terrible and self-indulgent piece of revisionist history, where the legend is always prioritized over the truth, even when the truth was surely far more interesting." For The Spectator, Jasper Rees described Bohemian Rhapsody as "a succession of predigested clichés", writing "you are overcome by the sapping impression that almost nothing happened the way it's being presented." He concluded: "The costumes and wigs are splendid, and the songs are still up to snuff. But this homage to a showman is more famine than feast." Olly Richards wrote for Empire that the film was "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." However, he described Malek as "spectacular", concluding: "If the script hits a lot of bum notes, Malek is always perfectly in key."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote: "In struggling to make a salable PG-13 movie out of an R-rated rock life, Bohemian Rhapsody leaves you feeling that something essential and elemental is missing", but said to put Malek "high on the list for best film performances of 2018" and the actor "digs so deep into the role that we can't believe we’re not watching the real thing." Dave Calhoun wrote for Time Out: "It boasts a film-stealing, possessed performance by Rami Malek, who pouts, struts and quips as Mercury, turning the rest of the cast into bit-part players... The movie, though catchy and often seductive, is an act of brazen myth-making. Facts and chronology are tossed aside in favour of a messianic storyline... Much is left out, or fiddled with." He added "don’t expect anything more than a safe gloss over the Queen tale... its attitude toward sex and drugs is coy and uncomfortably close to the small-world thinking it claims to dismiss." Despite calling the film "uneven," Chicago Tribune film critic Katie Walsh stated: "Malek keeps it going with his sheer will and talent." In a negative movie review, Soumya Srivastava of the Hindustan Times still asserted that the character was "played to a toothy perfection by Rami Malek." Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post was less impressed with Malek's performance, writing: "It's a surface-level performance — physically galvanizing, but with no substance."
The film also received criticism for its portrayal of Mercury's gay relationships. Aja Romano wrote for Vox: "What it really wants to be is a Queen concert, and what it really wants Freddie Mercury to be is a rock god instead of a real, queer human man. The result is far more hurtful than your average unconsciously homophobic film. Bohemian Rhapsody is a movie that consciously tries to position a gay man at its center while strategically disengaging with the 'gay' part as much as it can, flitting briefly over his emotional and sexual experiences and fixating on his platonic relationship with an ex-girlfriend instead." Likewise, Olly Richards wrote: "There are some poor, strange choices when deciding where to focus, not least committing so much time to his relationship with Mary Austin and virtually none to any happy gay relationship, romantic or otherwise." Owen Gleiberman wrote that the film "treats Freddie's personal life – his sexual-romantic identity, his loneliness, his reckless adventures in gay leather clubs – with kid-gloves reticence, so that even if the film isn't telling major lies, you don't feel you're fully touching the real story either."
On the film's critical reviews, Brian May responded: "The mistake that critics made was reviewing the trailer instead of reviewing the film. They jumped to conclusions. Once people stake their claim, it's hard for them to withdraw."
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