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Bohemian Rhapsody First Reviews: Rami Malek Shines in a Disappointing Biopic

Critics say Malek's performance is electric and the music is full of energy, but the film overall follows a too-familiar template.

by | October 23, 2018 | Comments

According to the first wave of reviews for Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury rock biopic is loud and full of energy, at least in the concert scenes, but it lacks character development and isn’t much more than a play-by-play collection of big moments. If anything, it’s Rami Malek‘s performance as Mercury and a depiction of Live Aid that are worth the price of a ticket.

Here’s what critics are saying about the movie:


Does it live up to expectations?

The movie isn’t un-enjoyable to watch…But if you were expecting anything out of the ordinary, you might be disappointed.
Anne Cohen, Refinery29

The movie is just a conventional rock flick, one all too ordinary for a man and a band that exemplified the extraordinary.
Brian Truitt, USA Today

The movie, as it is, is fine. But it could have been so much more… I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
Joanna Langfield, The Movie Minute


Does Rami Malek kill it as Freddie Mercury, though?

He is absolutely brilliant.
– Caroline Preece, Den of Geek

Start engraving that academy award.
– Tara Brady, The Irish Times

Malek gives an incredible performance and is honestly the only reason to keep watching the movie.
– Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider

What Bohemian Rhapsody does have is an electric performance from Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury.
– Russ Fischer, Birth.Movies.Death.

He goes big and bold… But it’s the small moments and expressions that truly elevate his performance.
– Kimber Myers, The Playlist

It’s a satisfying, hammy turn in a movie with no other meat on the bone.
– David Ehrlich, IndieWire


20th Century Fox

(Photo by )

Does the movie go deep enough?

More often than not, the film makes you feel like you’re watching a group of talented actors cosplay Queen’s Wikipedia page.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire

The news of his AIDS diagnosis is practically the only indication the audience gets that Mercury even had a sex life at all.
Richard Larson, Slant Magazine

For a movie that literally opens with an HIV-positive Mercury coughing — letting us know early that subtlety will not be on the menu — the film does handle its protagonist’s issues with AIDS-related complication respectfully, if fleetingly.
– Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

Someday another feature about Queen might go deeper. That might or might not make for a better movie.
– Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter

For a mainstream release celebrating a rock band whose songs have become sports anthems, a surprisingly gay film that does not shy away from depictions of intimacy between men.
– Russ Fischer, Birth.Movies.Death.


How ridiculous does the plotting get?

Freddie finally finds a man he’s spent years searching for and visits his parents for the first time in a decade on the morning of the famous Live Aid concert. That was a heck of a day!
– Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

If there’s anything more tiresome than the movies that inspired the Dewey Cox story, it’s a movie that uses Jake Kasdan’s damning parody as a template.
– David Ehrlich, IndieWire


Is the script formulaic?

[Paint-by-numbers] but the artist is really bad and can’t read numbers and just puts any color where he damn well pleases.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx

Screenwriter Anthony McCarten is no stranger to biopic contrivance, but he outdoes himself.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

[The screenplay] doesn’t so much flow as leap from one aha moment to the next.
Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter


20th Century Fox

(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

Are there any other good performances?

The performance by Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin… builds itself up over the entire course of the film. The rest of the members of the band are outstanding and perfectly cast.
– Ashley Menzel, We Live Entertainment

I’ve rarely seen actors look as convincingly like musicians as the ones in this film.
– Russ Fischer, Birth.Movies.Death.


Are there any standout moments?

Bohemian Rhapsody’s recreation of Queen’s Live Aid set is the movie’s clear highlight.
– Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

The final scene, a flawless, moving replication of Queen’s entire 20-minute set from Live Aid, is absurdly impressive.
– Tara Brady, The Irish Times

The lingering exhilaration of that concert scene is pretty darn magnifico.
– Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter

That Live Aid sequence so thrillingly captures what is considered both a high point in live rock performance and a historical moment in Queen’s career that it justifies making and seeing the movie.
– Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

The Live Aid performance… could be either seen as an impressive technical feat or an extended karaoke session, but at least ends the story on a high.
– Steve Rose, Guardian


Will Queen fans enjoy it?

It is a fan film that will have audiences dancing in their seats. I can see it having the long term success that The Greatest Showman enjoyed last year into earlier this year.
– Ashley Menzel, We Live Entertainment

If you’re not singing along, we have nothing to talk about.
– Joanna Langfield, The Movie Minute

Bohemian Rhapsody is finally ready to be seen by Queen superfans and curious moviegoers alike. Unfortunately, despite great work from a lot of people, the film never feels daring or honest enough to please either.
– Caroline Preece, Den of Geek


Bohemian Rhapsody opens everywhere on Friday, November 2. Read all the reviews for it here.

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Adjusted Score: 86100%
Critics Consensus: 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.
Synopsis: Freddie Mercury -- the lead singer of Queen -- defies stereotypes and convention to become one of history's most beloved... [More]
Directed By: Bryan Singer