Rami Malek won his Oscar from his first Oscar nomination for portraying Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
This film opens just before the monumental performance of Freddie Mercury's career, but first we must flashback, because as we all know Mercury recounted his entire life in his head before every show. We naturally find a long haired Freddie in his twenties with our performer Rami Malek, all decked out in extravagant, hair, digs, and a mouth piece to represent ole Freddie's proclined front teeth, ready to bring this legend to life. Of course with a little trouble set up by his father disapproving of Freddie, not for chopping his little brother in half like most musical legends, but for just being seemingly a near do well with a love of the night life. This isn't anything too substantial mind you as we get our glimpse of Malek's portrayal of Freddie. Malek, who was better known for more subdued characters up until this point, does turn in a transformative performance. He doesn't look like Freddie really, but he does seek to embody him. This with his heavy and rather idiosyncratic English accent, that Malek makes a lived in element to his performance. It is merely part of it, as it is consistent, and effective approximation of the real Mercury's accent. It honestly could've been quite the distraction but Malek honestly nails the impression, while avoiding becoming just a standard impersonation.
Of course Mercury was a rather flamboyant sort in and out of the stage. Malek's performance in turn is pretty big, but he thankfully does show reserve in the states of Freddie depending on his "audience" so to speak. As a more average bloke Malek presents more as the seeds of the extreme extroversion in his whole personality that is loud. Again he does this well by pulling it back in the early scenes showing the man fully trying to be something larger than life in his very physical being, as no movement is subdued, as Malek does capture a wild energy in the man. Of course he helps to form the band of Queen as the front man to which we see the performance side of Malek's performance. This can be argued as containing both the highlights and nadirs of his performance. In that on one hand his lip syncing is not particularly good. In fact it is often rather obvious. Malek does his best to make up for this in successfully capturing the stage personality of Freddie. Again this would be easy to fall into bad parody very quickly, given just how outrageous some of Freddie's costumes, and his moves were. Malek though manages to produce them while importantly capturing this certain charisma through them. It's a shame in fact that Malek wasn't capable of singing the part, since he succeeds in becoming the on stage front man in just about every other way.
Most unfortunate though is that the film is written by the guy who writes cliff notes versions of Wikipedia articles and calls them a screenplay, named Anthony McCarten. This means we will not get any real insight into the man that was Freddie, but rather the broadest of broad strokes. In fact for much of the film we just get sort of some Queen antics, with Freddie leading the charge. Malek is more than decent though in these horribly repetitive scenes, where he nicely plays around with sort of the ego/personality of Freddie based on the situation. In that with sort of the public/record producers, he plays it up all the more, and Malek shows him as much of a showman as he is on stage, yet perhaps a bit more cruel in his attitude. This against his scenes with the band where the flamboyance is still present, yet Malek will downplay it more often bringing in the occasional subtle moment, even though the script never has anything interesting for him to say. Malek though offers at least a bit of consistency in his performance as he attempts to find any depth by not playing every moment the same, even though they are pretty much written as such. This is with a good chunk of the film essentially being boiled down to, this song gets written, then this song, then this song.
Any darker elements involving Freddie are entirely blamed upon his EVIL road manager/partner Paul. His use of drugs doesn't even have the requisite "You don't want none of this", scene, it is in fact completely bypassed, as just a generalized idea of rough living due to a toxic one note partner. He breaks up Queen here initially, not because of any serious things like not paying for drugs even one time, but because of the mechanization of his evil partner. That troublesome Paul even keeps his real friends away (the rest of the band, and his former girlfriend Mary (Lucy Boyton)), and tries to stop Freddie from performing Live Aid. This mean keeping him from caring about people having injustices done to them ("women and midgets and such") as though he is simply a villain. Of course it helps when the film itself says he was fired for villainy just in case you missed the lack of subtlety in the screenplay beforehand. This more than anything removes sort of the burden of any of this behavior from Freddie once again limiting the character to being just trapped in toxic relationship, though actually more of as though he is being evilly manipulated. It is pure nonsense that once again limits a real exploration of who Freddie is. It just has Malek needing to play as a bit bent out of shape, and slightly angry, almost like he's under the influence of some manipulator only. It doesn't at all add up to much of anything, though Malek once again isn't the one at fault.
Of course given that depiction of Paul against the loving relationship with his former girlfriend Mary, to which Malek has a nice unassuming chemistry with, one would almost think the film was anti-homosexuality propaganda. The film tries to fix that though by depicting Freddie's later partner Jim as this perfect good. In turn neither relationship is given any real substance just two different extremes. One for Malek to depicting in a confused sulky way and the other for him to portray as loving and warm as possible. Malek hits both notes with as much depth as the film allows for so kudos there, I guess. The only real thing McCarten decides upon Freddie is that he was lonely, and was desperately seeking comfort. A potentially interesting idea if it didn't go past that sentence I just wrote there. That's all there is to it. Having said that Malek is very good in portraying the intense unease in the moments of Freddie alone, and is able to internalize this unease to an extent. This is particularly well done as he shows Freddie at his least flamboyant, as a man just looking quietly for any type of friend. Again this idea of isolation is still thin, but Malek tries by bringing an honest sense of desperation to these moments. We also of course get his AIDS diagnosis, which too is rushed through to a few moments of staring somberly in the mirror. Well again Malek hits his marks, the anxiety of his fate expressed by through his eyes of a man looking to the void, is well portrayed. Not nearly as powerful as another Oscar nominated turn with a man suffering from AIDS, but more than decent.
Every beat though is just a short thin little detail essentially to move Freddie towards his Live Aid performance after he's done living through every year of his life. Now Live Aid here is treated less as a charity concert, and more as say a boxing match at the end of a proper Rocky sequel. In that we get the odds, Queen has performed together in so long, Freddie's voice appears weak, the stakes, Africa depends on it, and then meaning of it for Freddie. It's so important, it cures Freddie's relationship with his father, he finds his good partner in Paul, and Queen will finally merge their powers again to fight for the world. This is even shown as the call center for Live Aid being downtrodden until Queen performs changing the fortunes of the event, and they only stop short of showing a LED readout showing the increase in donations as Queen performs. It is the concert of a lifetime that will make all right in the world if only Freddie can perform to his fullest, before dying like Dewey Cox three minutes after his final performance. Although the writing behind the sequence couldn't be any more absurd, Malek once again delivers, outside of the lip syncing, in fully embodying every move he made in the performance. It doesn't come off as choreography, but rather a natural expression of the man's power on stage. So again kudos to Malek for delivering as he does as the representation of the man, even in a ludicrously written scenario. This is a good performance by Rami Malek, as he manages not to be overshadowed by the subject, other than his voice, and effectively realizes a paint by numbers portrait of him.