Bohemian Rhapsody—a movie that recounts the life of the late Queen singer Freddie Mercury, who's played by Rami Malek—is pretty wonderful in several ways, but it's also a museum of ancient biopic clichés. For example, in an early scene we see the young Freddie-to-be, an immigrant kid from Zanzibar named Farrokh Bulsara, at his parents' London home, where he lives. Classic: some light biography, a touch of sex-life foreshadowing. A little later we find Farrokh—or Freddie, as he's already calling himself—at a bar cheering on his favorite band, a group called Smile. Out in the parking lot between sets we see drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May being informed by their singer that he's leaving the band. The group scores a record deal, releases an album, and is soon touring the world. At this point, Freddy is living with a sweet young woman named Mary Austin . They're really in love , but she senses something is not quite right.
The narrative manipulations in this movie are classic head-smackers, but at least they're deployed forthrightly. I think the filmmakers have
embraced tried-and-true clichés as a crowd-pleasing element of large-scale commercial storytelling. Like the makers of A Star Is Born, which has lately been sucking all the discretionary bucks
out of the movie market that haven't already been hoovered up by Venom, they may be onto something that sophisticated observers are reluctant to acknowledge.
To the actor's great credit, Malek's Freddie is a complex character after the music stops playing. The singer had an extreme overbite , and this required Malek to wear jutting prosthetic bucked teeth throughout the film. The marvel of this is that we pretty much forget about it after the movie takes hold. By all accounts, he saw Mary Austin as a true soulmate; and here, when they both realize that he is gay, and that their physical relationship is over, he implores her to continue wearing the engagement ring he gave her. «What do you want from me?» she asks in some frustration. «Almost everything,» he says.
But the movie is also straightforward in depicting Mercury's gay relationships, for better and worse. We see him being cruelly manipulated by a snake named Paul Prenter , who has compromising photographs and ultimately sells him out to the tabloids.