It’s been nearly a decade since the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody—a title that lends itself equally well to music and film—was first announced. The dust has settled at last around the movie; after the X-Men director Bryan Singer departed the project under murky circumstances, the director Dexter Fletcher stepped in to finish the movie. This followed Sacha Baron Cohen and Ben Whishaw having vacated the lead role before Rami Malek arrived to play Mercury. So, in the wake of turnover in cast, crew, and direction, five months after the first trailer was released, the film is finally going to make its entrée at the end of the month. Here’s the question: Was it worth the wait?
There’s good news, and then there’s just-fine news. Rami Malek, according to many who saw early screening, is superb as Mercury. After press screenings over the weekend, his performance was singled out for particular praise amid a film that The New York Times’s Kyle Buchanan called “a glorified Wikipedia entry.” (That’s the just-fine news. Biopics, in general, are not good, so this is not surprising.) Mike Ryan, of Uproxx, described him as “outstanding”; Anne Thompson, of IndieWire, “strong.” Us Weekly’s Mara Reinstein wrote, “How do you turn an ok movie into a good one? Five words: Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury.”
My biggest takeaway from BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is how much the rest of Queen resents Freddie Mercury. But Rami Malek is outstanding. Also, the fact Mike Myers is in this movie is genius and insane.
— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) October 8, 2018
Bohemian Rhapsody is a straight-on biopic with plenty of Queen music and a strong performance by Rami Malek. It will get mixed reviews. It might play with audiences.
— Anne Thompson (@akstanwyck) October 7, 2018
How do you turn an ok movie into a good one? Five words: Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. #BohemianRhapsody
— Mara Reinstein (@MaraReinstein) October 8, 2018
Deadline’s Pete Hammond came through with perhaps the strongest words in support of Malek as Mercury: “If the idea was to firmly plant Rami Malek among top contenders for the Best Actor Oscar, then it was mission accomplished,” the critic wrote of an early screening, proceeding to compare Malek’s performance to Jamie Foxx’s virtuoso turn as Ray Charles in 2004’s Ray. (Foxx did go on to win the Academy Award the following year.)
Others, while positive, focused more on Malek’s physicality than his overall performance: David Ehrlich, also of IndieWire, wrote that Malek “nails that imitation”—which is not necessarily the unequivocal praise it first appears. What actor wants to be praised for “imitation”? Ditto Buchanan, who said Malek “plays Freddie Mercury (and wears his wonderful costumes) with incredible gusto.”
just did a double feature of A STAR IS BORN and BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and yeeeeesh that contrast didn’t do the latter any favors. Rami Malek sure nails that imitation, tho.
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) October 8, 2018
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is a glorified Wikipedia entry but Rami Malek plays Freddie Mercury (and wears his wonderful costumes) with incredible gusto
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) October 7, 2018
So there you have it: Rami Malek, pretty good and maybe great Freddie Mercury.
Rami Malek in Mr. Robot. Photo by Peter Kramer/USA Network
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