Bohemian Rhapsody (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bryan Singer[a]|
|Screenplay by||Anthony McCarten|
|Cinematography||Newton Thomas Sigel|
|Edited by||John Ottman|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$604.9 million|
Bohemian Rhapsody is a 2018 biographical film about the British rock band Queen. It follows singer Freddie Mercury's life, leading to Queen's 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, and has grossed over $604 million worldwide on a production budget of about $50 million, becoming the ninth highest grossing film of the year worldwide, and the highest-grossing musical biographical film of all-time. 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. The film has received nominations for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, while Malek received nominations for the Golden Globe Award, the Critic’s Choice Award and the Screen Actors Guild Award for best actor.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Music
- 5 Historical accuracy
- 6 Release
- 7 Reception
- 8 Possible sequel
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 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 to 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.
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 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
Archived studio vocal recordings of Mercury, May, Taylor alongside recordings from live performances with the three with also Deacon were also used for the singing voices of the band members in the film. Mercury sound-alike Marc Martel also contributed vocal recordings. Adam Lambert appears in a cameo role as a truck driver. The film's editor John Ottman also cameos as a live TV director.
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 4 November 2016, it was announced that Rami Malek would star as Freddie Mercury. 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). 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.
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. On 15 December 2017, the film had resumed filming in and around London after replacing Singer with Fletcher. Fletcher estimated 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.
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.
Regarding the band
- The formation of Queen was not as simple as portrayed in the film. Tim Staffell knew Brian May from grammar school and had been the lead vocalist in May's schoolboy band, 1984. 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.'"
- Mercury sang with the short-lived bands Ibex (which he renamed Wreckage), and Sour Milk Sea from the summer of 1969 to the spring of 1970. Brian May and Roger Taylor joined Ibex on stage for an encore on 9 September 1969, marking their first known live appearance together. It was during Wreckage's final show that Mercury attempted to lift a microphone stand above his head when the upper shaft broke away from the base. Freddie used the staff as a prop, whipping it around or pretending it was a guitar, and it became a trademark.
- Mercury, May, Staffell and Taylor eventually lived together in Barnes, a Thames-side village in London. Taylor and Mercury opened a tiny stall together in Kensington Market and sold art, clothing and antiques. When Staffell quit Smile to join the band Humpy Bong early in 1970, Mercury, who'd been lobbying to join the band for months, was finally accepted by May and Taylor as their vocalist. May told Mojo in 1999, "Tim gave up in disgust and he was within his rights to leave us. ... 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.'"
- At Mercury's suggestion the band changed their name to "Queen." About this time he also changed his name to "Freddie Mercury" (not, as depicted in the film, shortly before the band's first meeting with John Reid). Queen performed their first gig on 18 July 1970.
- John Deacon was not the original bassist, but the fourth. He joined the band in February 1971.
- Queen were on Top of the Pops before the "Killer Queen" appearance depicted in the film. They lip-synced to "Seven Seas of Rhye" on 21 Feb, two days before the single was released. "Killer Queen" was performed on 10 October 1974, before the band's association with John Reid and Paul Prenter.
- The film suggests that John Reid secured the band its first American tour. However, Reid did not become their manager until mid-1975. By then, Queen had been to the U.S. twice, in the spring of 1974 in support of Queen II and early in 1975 in support of Sheer Heart Attack.
- The character of Ray Foster is fictional and loosely based on EMI chief Roy Featherstone. While Featherstone and others (including Elton John) 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 or the only 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 not released until April 1985 and did not cause a row within the band.
- Queen never split up, so Live Aid was not a reunion. Queen had recently toured in support of their album The Works earlier in the year, playing Brazil, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. The last gig of the tour, in Osaka, occurred eight weeks before Live Aid. The band were not a last-minute addition to Live Aid; they were listed in the event's first public announcement to the press, prior to manager Jim Beach's knowledge of ever agreeing to have the band perform. Queen did rehearse for three days prior to Live Aid, working out their medley of hits, because every act had a strict 20-minute time limit. Mercury was suffering from a severe throat infection prior to Live Aid, and a doctor declared he was too ill to perform at the concert. However, Mercury went ahead with the show. A member of the Live Aid team recalled, "He wasn’t well enough at all, but he absolutely insisted.”
Regarding Mercury's personal life
- Mercury did not meet Mary Austin on the same night he joined the band. They met in 1969 when she was working as a receptionist at Biba, a fashionable clothing store. Brian May explained, "Strangely enough, Mary was the girl that I picked out as somebody fabulous, and I was kind of going out with her. And Freddie came up to me one day and said, 'Are you serious with Mary? Can I ask her out?' And he did, and they were lovers for a long time." Austin recalled, "It took Freddie nearly six months to finally ask me out! I thought he fancied my best friend, so I used to avoid him. One night we were at one of his gigs, and after it had finished, he came looking for me. I left him at the bar with my friend to go to the loo, but I actually sneaked out. He was furious!"
- Jim Hutton was not a servant at one of Mercury's parties; he was an Irish-born hairdresser who first met Mercury at a gay nightclub in London late in 1983. Mercury offered to buy him a drink but Hutton, who was out with his lover, politely declined. He did not recognize Mercury. They crossed paths again in another club in March 1985 after Hutton had split with his boyfriend. A few weeks before Live Aid, Freddie contacted Hutton again. He introduced Hutton to Mary Austin and her new boyfriend, Joe Bert, weeks before Live Aid. Hutton, now living with Mercury, recalled watching Live Aid — his first concert — from backstage: "I was gobsmacked. You could feel the effect his stage presence had on the crowd. Afterwards Elton [John] came and said, ‘Bastard, you’ve stolen it.’”
- The film's treatment of Mercury's HIV diagnosis received particular criticism. Mercury did not learn that he was HIV-positive before Live Aid. He may have already suspected that he had contracted the virus, but an AIDS test in late 1985 delivered a negative result. Mercury remained well enough to perform for over a year after Live Aid, which included one of the band's biggest ever tours, the Magic Tour, in 1986. He was not diagnosed as HIV-positive until 1987, and did not raise it with the band until 1989.
- The film also received criticism for its portrayal of Mercury's homosexual relationships; particularly its depiction of his relationship with Paul Prenter as a corrupting influence, and the lack of development on his relationship with Hutton. In a 2016 interview, John Reid said, “He [Prenter] became a nightmare and he became divisive between Freddie and the band.” Roger Taylor agreed, “He was a very, very bad influence on Freddie, hence on the band, really. He very much wanted our music to sound like you’d just walked in a gay club. And I didn’t.”
- Several songs are presented out of chronological order. "Fat Bottomed Girls" is played over a montage of clips from the band’s first America tour in 1974, but May did not write the song until 1978. When the band creates "We Will Rock You" (for the 1977 album News of the World), Mercury appears with his moustache and "clone" look, which he did not adopt until 1980. "Another One Bites The Dust" was recorded and released for the 1980 album The Game, while the film portrays the song's formation as during the Hot Space sessions.
- The band's performance at Rio de Janeiro did not occur until January 1985, during the first-ever Rock in Rio festival.
- Prenter did not neglect to give Mercury messages concerning Live Aid. He was still in Mercury's employ until 1987, and didn't "out" Mercury on TV; instead he sold personal information about Mercury to The Sun for £32,000. This resulted in Prenter's firing.
- Queen's manager John Reid was not fired on Mercury's decision in a limousine during the early 1980s. The band felt he couldn't devote the time to manage both them and Elton John. Reid explained, "Jim Beach came to me and said, 'Thank you very much, the band really appreciate what you’ve done but they want to manage themselves.' And we had a three-year contract and it had a bit to run and I said, 'Well, okay,' because when an artist tells you that, you’re not going to fight it, so we made a deal and they paid me a lot of money and I kept my rights. I still get royalties from them, so I kept my commission from the records that were made under my tenure and after that individually, particularly with Freddie, we were able to spend more time together as friends.”
- Jim Beach became manager of the band in 1978, not during the Hot Space sessions as portrayed in the film.
Bohemian Rhapsody 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.
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 have stated that the film will still acknowledge Mercury's gay relationships. With the recent 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 13 December 2018[update], Bohemian Rhapsody has grossed $176.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $428.6 million in other territories (including $57.3 million in the UK), for a total worldwide gross of $604.9 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 biopic of all-time worldwide.
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 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 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.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 62% based on 326 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 45 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".
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." Glieberman also stated 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."
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."
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... It's par for the course in this 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," citing in particular the timing of Mercury's AIDS diagnosis. 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."
In December 2018, Brian May discussed the making of the movie along with some of his favorite scenes and the possibility of a sequel from Live Aid to Freddie's death. However, that interview took place before the biopic became the highest grossing music film of all time, crossing the $600 million mark worldwide.
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