Bohemian Rhapsody, the highly anticipated biopic following nearly two decades of Queen’s career, premiered in the UK last Tuesday. No-one was entirely sure what kind of timeline the film would follow, or whether it would cover the events leading up to and after Freddie Mercury’s passing in 1991. There was equal uncertainty about the film’s director - they went through several of them, as well as several people playing Mercury. The roles were eventually credited to Bryan Singer (of X-Men fame) and Mr Robot’s Rami Malek.
Malek’s performance was easily the best part of the film. His physical appearance isn’t all there - this isn’t the first Queen-based piece that shoves some teeth and a moustache onto a man and labelled him as Freddie. However, there’s more than that to Malek’s performances. He brought the voice, the movements, the all around flamboyance needed to convince the audience that it was him. It’s easy to get lost in his recreation of the rock star and forget that it’s not Freddie.
The content of the film, however, does not quite live up to the loud and out there intestines of its namesake song. It gives viewers plenty of Queen music - but it skims over much of their history.
The three other members of the band - John Deacon, Roger Taylor and Brian May (played by Joe Mazello, Ben Hardy and Gwilym Lee) certainly have their moments. They bring a sort of comic relief to the film with their antics and stupid nicknames for one another, but they easily become background noise when the film is so heavily Freddie focused.
The biopic does delve into the complications and confusion surrounding Mercury’s sexuality. A lot of the first half of the film is about him and his former fiance, Mary Austin (played by Lucy Boynton) - and their eventual break up. Whilst probably being romanticized for cinema, it did hold a sense of emotion. Mercury’s ‘I think I’m bisexual’ claim was met with ‘no, Freddie, I think you’re gay.’
So, for every one of Freddie’s sideway glances at another man or homophobic comment by a journalist, there is a reference to Mary and how at one point, Freddie did date and intend to marry a woman. It was as though they had to constantly remind the audience.
One thing the film didn’t shy away from was his AIDS diagnosis. He clearly states it on screen, amid fears it would be skimmed over to make the film more ‘family friendly.’ The timeline of the biopic doesn’t reach far enough to cover his death, but to cram 21 years of music and events into one film would be difficult.
All that aside, and referencing back to Malek’s performance, the biopic still manages to jerk emotions and humanize Mercury. He’s such a flamboyant and significant figure that it’s easy to forget that he too dealt with life’s hardships. In the final few scenes, he’s seen as an antagonist to the band - he does redeem himself, but this may be an issue for some fans.
The show stealer was easily the Live Aid scene at the end of the film - it’s become known as the return of Queen, and them solidifying their place in rock history. A replica of the old Wembley was built in an airfield to recreate the show, with Malek, Hardy, Mazello and Lee miming along to soundtracks of the original performance - and they do it well. It’s truly the pinnacle of Malek’s Mercury - from the skippy-dancing in Radio Gaga to the belting of the ballad section on Bohemian Rhapsody.
Overall, it’s not a bad film. In fact, it’s very much a decent recreation of Queen’s peak with a show-stealing lead role and a great soundtrack. However, it feels rushed in some areas which made other parts hard to understand. It’s a good biopic that doesn’t quite live up to the song it’s named after.
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