Bohemian Rhapsody (film)
Bohemian Rhapsody is a 2018 biographical film about Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the British rock band Queen. It follows the singer's life from just before he joins the band in 1970 to their 1985 Live Aid performance at the original Wembley Stadium in London. It was directed by Bryan Singer from a screenplay by Anthony McCarten, and produced by Graham King and Queen manager Jim Beach. It stars Rami Malek as Mercury, with Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech, and Mike Myers in supporting roles. Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor served as consultants. A British-American venture, the film was produced by 20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises, GK Films, and Queen Films, with Fox serving as distributor.
U.S. theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bryan Singer[a]|
|Screenplay by||Anthony McCarten|
|Music by||John Ottman|
|Cinematography||Newton Thomas Sigel|
|Edited by||John Ottman|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$903.2 million|
Bohemian Rhapsody was announced in 2010, with Sacha Baron Cohen set to play Mercury. After he left the project in 2013 following creative differences with producers, the project languished for several years before Malek was cast in November 2016. Bryan Singer was the director through most of principal photography, which began in London in September 2017, but was fired in December 2017, for absence and clashing with the cast and crew. Dexter Fletcher, who was originally set to direct the film early in development, was hired to complete the film, although Singer retained sole director credit as per Directors Guild of America guidelines. Fletcher received an executive producer credit and filming concluded in January 2018.
The film was released in the United Kingdom on 24 October 2018 and in the United States on November 2, 2018. It received mixed reviews from critics; its portrayals of Mercury's life and sexuality and of the other band members as well as the directing were criticised , but Malek's performance and the music sequences received praise. The film also contains a number of historical inaccuracies. It became a major box office success, grossing over $903 million worldwide on a production budget of about $50 million, becoming the sixth-highest-grossing film of 2018 worldwide and setting the all-time box office records for the biopic and drama genres.
Bohemian Rhapsody received numerous accolades, including a leading four awards at the 91st Academy Awards for Best Actor (Malek), Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing; it was also nominated for Best Picture. The film also won Best Motion Picture – Drama at the 76th Golden Globe Awards, and was nominated for the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture and BAFTA Award for Best British Film, while Malek won the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA for Best Actor.
In 1970 London, Farrokh "Freddie" Bulsara, an Indian Parsi refugee from Zanzibar, works as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport. After seeing the band Smile perform at a pub, Freddie encounters Mary Austin, and meets the drummer, Roger Taylor, and guitarist, Brian May. Learning their lead singer, Tim Staffell, has quit, Freddie offers to join and demonstrates his vocal ability. Freddie and Mary begin dating.
With Freddie as lead singer and bassist John Deacon, the band sells out gigs across Britain. Freddie urges them to think bigger, selling their van to book Trident Studios to record their debut album. An A&R rep from EMI Records, watching the band experiment, asks sound engineer Roy Thomas Baker for their demos. Freddie changes the band's name to Queen, and legally changes his own name to Freddie Mercury.
The band signs with John Reid, Elton John's manager, and receives a contract with EMI. An appearance on Top of the Pops gives Queen a hit record, "Killer Queen". After touring to promote the album, Mary and Freddie become engaged. The album hits the charts in America and the band embarks on a sold-out U.S. tour, where Freddie questions his sexuality.
In 1975, Queen records their fourth album, A Night at the Opera, but leaves EMI when executive Ray Foster refuses to release the operatic "Bohemian Rhapsody" as the album's lead single due to its six-minute length. Freddie has DJ Kenny Everett debut the song on the radio; despite mixed reviews, it becomes a smash hit. On Queen’s world tour, Freddie begins an affair with Paul Prenter, the band's day-to-day manager. Confronted by Mary, Freddie comes out to her as bisexual, although she assures him he is gay. They end their engagement, but they continue to remain as friends and she moves next door when he purchases an extravagant house in 1980.
Tensions arise in the band as Freddie sinks into debauchery with the manipulative Paul. After throwing a lavish party, Freddie flirts with Jim Hutton, a waiter, who tells Freddie to find Hutton when he learns to like himself. Following a successful show performing "We Will Rock You", Paul enlists Reid to propose that Freddie pursue a solo career and disband Queen, prompting Freddie to fire Reid without consulting the band, furthering their strain. At a press conference promoting Queen’s 1982 album Hot Space, Freddie is bombarded with questions about his personal life.
Freddie's relationship with his bandmates further sours after their music video for “I Want to Break Free”, in which the band appears in drag, is banned from MTV. He announces his $4 million solo deal with CBS Records, effectively breaking up the band. In 1984, Freddie moves to Munich to work on his first solo album, Mr. Bad Guy, finding himself lost in drugs, alcohol, and gay orgies with Paul, and becomes increasingly ill. Mary, now pregnant by her new partner and concerned about Freddie, 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, Freddie severs ties with him, having finally had enough of Paul's lies and behavior, but Paul retaliates by going public about Freddie's sexual escapades. Freddie returns to London and reconciles with his band mates after they agree that their songs will now be credited by Queen as a whole, while their new manager Jim Beach asks them for their answer about participating in Live Aid. They agree and are given a last-minute slot. With HIV/AIDS spreading worldwide, Freddie discovers that he has contracted the virus; he reveals this to his supportive bandmates.
On the day of Live Aid, Freddie reconnects with Jim, Mary, and his family. The band performs Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer to Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions, helping increase donations and turning the event into a massive success. The film ends with inter-titles, stating that Freddie died on November 24, 1991 at 45 from AIDS-related pneumonia, remaining close with Jim and Mary for the rest of his life, and that the Mercury Phoenix Trust was founded in his honour to help those living with AIDS.
- Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, 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
- Allen Leech as Paul Prenter, Mercury's personal manager and lover
- Aidan Gillen as John Reid, Queen's manager
- Tom Hollander as Jim "Miami" 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
- Tim Plester as Roy Thomas Baker, Queen's sound engineer
- Dermot Murphy as Bob Geldof, Live Aid organizer
- Dickie Beau as Kenny Everett, radio broadcaster in Capital London
- Jack Roth as Tim Staffell, vocalist & bassist of the rock band Smile
- Max Bennett as David, Mary's new boyfriend
- Neil Fox-Roberts as Mr. Austin, Mary's father
- Michelle Duncan as Shelley Stern, a reporter
- Adam Lambert as Truck Stop Guy
- Luke Deacon (John Deacon's son) as concert attendee (uncredited)
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 approved of Baron Cohen as Mercury, but had reservations about the project's possible direction. 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 said 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 Queen about the 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 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 left 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, Bryan Singer was in talks to take over as director, Rami Malek was cast as Mercury, and the film was fast-tracked by 20th Century Fox and New Regency. It was reported 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. The same month, Entertainment Weekly reported that Taylor and May were serving as 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. The producers saw his work on Mr. Robot. He had to make a pre-recording at Abbey Road Studios, which was sent to Queen members for approval. On 21 August 2017, additional cast members were announced: 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. The film includes cameos by current Queen vocalist Adam Lambert as a truck driver and the film's editor John Ottman as a live TV director.
Pre-production began in July 2017 in the United Kingdom, with principal photography commencing in London in September 2017. 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. 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 on a giant set at the former airfield RAF Bovingdon, but in the final cut "We Will Rock You" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" were cut out.
When Malek was contacted about playing Mercury, he had only a casual knowledge of Queen. To embody 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 took singing and piano lessons, and had an accent coach, as well. He 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", specifying, "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. Sources said that Singer had not returned to the set after the Thanksgiving week. Discussions began about replacing him. Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel stepped in to direct during Singer's non-showings. Singer's absence was reportedly due to "a personal health matter concerning Bryan and his family". With under three weeks left on the shoot, Singer requested a filming hiatus as his mother was extremely ill. Other sources, however, claimed that Malek and the crew had grown tired of Singer's behaviour, who was reportedly arriving late to set and 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."
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 an 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 vinyl release followed on 8 February 2019.
Some historical events are portrayed out of order in the film; McCarten said this was for dramatic effect, saying: "We're making a movie here, not a documentary."
Regarding the bandEdit
- The formation of Queen was not as simple as portrayed in the film. Mercury had known Staffell from art college, and had shown an interest in joining the band prior to Staffell's departure.
- 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 worldwide. The last show of the tour was eight weeks before Live Aid. They were "extremely well-rehearsed" for the show and did not have to get back into shape as a band.
- Mercury was extremely loyal to the band, and did not betray the band. The film portrayed it such that Mercury betrayed the band to go solo for $4 million. In reality, Peter Freestone's book Freddie Mercury: An Intimate Memoir by the Man who Knew Him Best describes how record producer David Geffen turned around to Mercury on a flight, and "ostentatiously flung open his cheque book", saying "I want you to sing on my label. Just fill in the amount yourself!" The book wrote, "Freddie didn't. He was, for one of the very few occasions in my knowledge, stuck for words. The reason he didn't take up the pen is one he would never be stuck for and that was his loyalty to the band and the institution of Queen. He knew he could never leave." In 1986 (Live at Wembley), Mercury said, "We’re gonna stay together until we fucking well die, I’m sure of it."
Regarding Mercury's personal lifeEdit
- 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 server at one of Mercury's parties; he was a hairdresser at the Savoy Hotel who 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 usually given as between 1986 and 1987, not before Live Aid in 1985 as depicted in the film. The other band members were not made aware until early 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 in the United States on 2 November 2018, by 20th Century Fox. 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 would 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-along screenings in South Korea and Japan.
In China, the film had a limited release on 22 March 2019. Three minutes of the film was censored, including scenes depicting drugs and homosexuality. Part of Rami Malek's Oscar speech, where he referred to Freddie Mercury as "a gay man, an immigrant," was also censored in China.
In Egypt, the film was subjected to several cuts before it was permitted to be screened. As Rami Malek is of Egyptian descent, his Oscar win for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury drew congratulations from Egyptian media and government figures. However, Neela Ghoshal of Human Rights Watch stated that the country deserved "an Oscar for hypocrisy" given its prohibition on homosexuals appearing in the media. Member of Parliament Mohamed Ismail, on the other hand, criticized Malek's win, stating: "He is trying to [spread] homosexuality among the youth... The award has a specific goal, which is to corrupt morality in the Arab world. Rami Malek is a bad example. If he was in Egypt, he would have been hanged."
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the film in the United States on DVD, Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray on 12 February 2019; with a digital version released 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 includes an extended version of the Live Aid sequence, a 16-minute featurette, a 22-minute documentary and trailers. In the United States, 73% of unit sales in the first week were on Blu-ray Disc, with 13% from the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version. In the United Kingdom, it surpassed Avengers: Infinity War to become the fastest-selling digital download film of all time, selling 265,000 downloads in eight days. Sales of home media in the U.S. and Canada are estimated to be $11,306,664 in DVDs and Blu-ray of $31,327,072.
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The first 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 men, and also highlighted 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 acknowledge Mercury's gay relationships. With the release of the trailer, Queen reached 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". All-in-all the studio spent $121 million promoting the film.
On 11 June 2018, at CineEurope, an early showing of the film closed the show with appearances by Rami Malek and producer Graham King and special appearances by Brian May and Roger Taylor, who were playing a concert of Queen + Adam Lambert in Barcelona.
Bohemian Rhapsody grossed $216.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $686.8 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $903.2 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. Bohemian Rhapsody eventually went on to set all-time box office records for the highest-grossing biopic of all time, the highest-grossing drama film (without action or fantasy), and the highest-grossing LGBT film. It is Fox's fourth highest-grossing film ever, and their fifth highest outside of North America. Deadline Hollywood calculated the net profit of the film to be $350.8 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues, making it the fourth most profitable release of 2018.
In the United Kingdom, the film had preview screenings on its opening night of 24 October 2018, grossing £1.62 million ($2.16 million) from 575 venues, with a per-screen average of £2,817 ($3,756). 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 ($27.2 million) through 12 days.
United States and CanadaEdit
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, and $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 grossing musical biopic in the United States. In its 10th weekend of release the film was added to 199 theaters over the previous week for a total of 1,080, and made $2.4 million. In its 12th weekend of release the film made $2.3 million from 1,117 theaters, crossing the $200 million mark. In the film's 13th week of release, following the announcement of its five Oscar nominations, it was added back to an additional 246 theaters (for a total of 1,423) and made $2.6 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.
The film became the biggest 2018 release in 13 international markets, including Japan ($88.6 million), Italy ($30.5 million) and the Netherlands ($19.3 million), as of 20 January 2019[update]. The film's largest overseas markets were in East Asia, with the largest-grossing market being Japan, where it became the highest-grossing film of 2018. The film crossed 7 million tickets sold and ¥10 billion grossed at the Japanese box office, with the IMAX version crossing ¥1 billion, becoming the highest-grossing IMAX release ever in Japan. It also crossed $115 million there, and is the highest-grossing live-action musical film in Japan, passing Beauty and the Beast (2017). As of 31 March 2019, Bohemian Rhapsody has sold 9,220,250 tickets and grossed ¥12,739,285,680 in Japan.
In South Korea, the film debuted at number two at 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 second-largest grossing market outside of North America, the film has amassed $77 million, as of 1 February 2019, and has become the sixth highest-grossing foreign film ever in South Korea, with nearly 10 million tickets sold. It is the most successful musical film ever released in South Korea.
The film grossed $29.4 million in Spain, $16.4 million in Russia and $14.4 million in Brazil, as of 3 February 2019[update]. In China, where the film received an art house release after having its content edited, it debuted to $11.6 million, setting the all-time record for a National Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas release.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 61% based on 377 reviews, and an average rating of 6.11/10. 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 one of the worst-reviewed films to win a Best Picture award at the Golden Globe Awards (lowest Rotten Tomatoes score since Out of Africa in 1986, with a 60%), as well as to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards (worst since Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close in 2012, with a 46%).
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," as 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 received criticism for its portrayal of Mercury's gay relationships. Aja Romano wrote for Vox: "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." Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, wrote: "Don’t believe the critics. If you like Queen’s music, see the Queen film," and he likened the critics' negative reaction to the film to the original reaction to the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the popular musical We Will Rock You. Also writing for The Spectator, Toby Young described the film's success at the Academy Awards as "a triumph over snobby film critics".
The film, which has received multiple awards and nominations, won four awards at the 91st Academy Awards for Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, making it the film with the most wins at the ceremony; it was also nominated for Best Picture. At the 76th Golden Globe Awards, the film was nominated for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and Best Motion Picture – Drama, winning both. At the 72nd British Academy Film Awards, the film received seven nominations, winning for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Sound. The film was also nominated for Best Theatrical Motion Picture at the 30th annual Producers Guild of America Awards, and received an award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role at the 25th Screen Actors Guild Awards.
In the wake of the renewed sexual abuse allegations against director Bryan Singer, GLAAD withdrew Bohemian Rhapsody's nomination for the year's GLAAD Media Award in the Outstanding Film – Wide Release category. On 6 February 2019, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts removed Singer's name from Bohemian Rhapsody's nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best British Film.
Upon getting nominated for, and winning, its Best Editing awards, several clips from the film went viral online and were criticized for their poor editing styles and continuity errors. Editor John Ottman, aware of the quality of the clips, explained that they were the result of mixing Singer and Fletcher-shot scenes, as well as in response to the producers' and test audiences' desires for dialogue and pacing, and he wished he could have handled them differently.
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