All along the concern about Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox, 11.2), the Bryan Singer-Dexter Fletcher biopic about Queen and Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), was that it might be too softball, fan-clubby or family friendly — not adult or hard-edged enough. After Sacha Baron Cohen left an earlier version of the biopic in 2013, Queen guitarist and producer Brian May was quoted saying that “we can’t mess up [Mercury’s] legacy.”
Yesterday I flipped through an 11.4.15 draft of Anthony McCarten‘s script of Bohemian Rhapsody. Scripts are only blueprints, of course, and McCarten’s draft was rewritten sometime in mid or late ’16 by Justin Haythe, so impressions of a two-year-old script hardly mean anything.
Nonetheless my general impression is that if the McCarten draft bears any resemblance to the finished film, it’s (a) going to be a huge hit with both Queen fans and dilletantes in general (the 1985 Wembley Stadium Live Aid concert is quite the crescendo) but (b) it’s a long way from warts and all.
I solicited the opinions of a script aficionado (male) and a Los Angeles-based producer (female) who had also read it.
“I think the script is a device for two things: Rami Malek and the music of Queen,” the script guy said. “I liked the script, although it could have been more shocking or darker. I wouldn’t call it softball but it isn’t edgy either. It’s certainly mainstream enough to work at the box-office and get Oscar buzz. A source told me (apparently Bohemian Rhapsody tested last week) that Malek knocks it out of the park.”
The producer notes that “two of the band members who are producers on the film” — May and drummer Roger Taylor — “wanted a family friendly picture, which would account for the softness. And yes, the script amps up Freddie’s relationship with Mercury’s lifelong companion Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and downplays the lurid nature of the secret trips to the Mineshaft as a result.
“Mary seems to have the virtue and patience of a saint — not a real character. And the parents (Meneka Das as mother Jer Bulsara, Ace Bhatti as father Bomi Bulsara) are just too Ozzie and Harriet cute. Everyone is too cute.
“We really don’t understand what drove this guy, despite numerous redundant scenes and mostly repeated dialogue, explaining to us again what he wanted. The script tries way too hard to find empathy and succeeds more often in sledgehammering the point rather than letting it breathe. The gimmick of the hand in front of the mouth to hide the buck teeth wears thin.
“At 152 pages, the script itself meanders around a lot. It needs a good 25- to 30-page cut. However, the Live Aid ending is a winner. I hear they built an actual set of Wembley Stadium. When they start ‘We Will Rock You’ and that music kicks in, everyone will forget all the faults of the first two acts. And if Rami Malek sounds as good as he looks, he’s got the Oscar nom.”