Bohemian Rhapsody

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Bohemian Rhapsody

This tune-filled but tame Queen biopic may well rock you but it’s unlikely to shock you.

The afterlife has rarely been quiet for Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who died young in 1991 after a flurry of late-life creativity. First came ‘Wayne’s World’, with Mike Myers head-banging along to Queen’s 1975 hit ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Then came a massive tribute concert in 1992 and a globetrotting stage musical, ‘We Will Rock You’ in the 2000s. Now, 27 years on, comes the authorised movie biopic to push the Freddie Mercury legend even further into the realm of the unreal. 

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is as brash, loud and mask-wearing as Mercury at his most playful. Another movie would try to get behind the legend or play with the idea of it but this does neither. Instead, it grabs the legend by the neck and gallops recklessly through the movie on it, climaxing in a wholesale extended recreation of one of the most famous rock gigs of all time: Queen at Live Aid. Modest and inquiring it is not.

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 energy of Malek’s imitation helps to bind what amounts to a series of gossipy but harmless rock-world anecdotes into something vaguely coherent. The story starts and ends with Queen playing Live Aid at Wembley in July 1985. In between, we see how Farrokh Bulsara, born in Zanzibar, became Freddie Mercury and helped to transform a student band into a stadium rock behemoth.

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 that sees their 20-minute Live Aid performance serve as Mercury’s death, resurrection and ascension. Much is left out, or fiddled with. It’s unlikely that Mercury knew he was HIV+ in 1985, but here he reveals it to the band while rehearsing for Wembley. That’s a major leap of imagination for the sake of a neat and inspiring movie moment: Guitarist Brian May said in 1991 that the band were only told of his illness “a few months” before Mercury’s death (then later said they knew during the 1990 recording of final album ‘Innuendo’, a full two years earlier). The film also suggests that Queen hesitated before agreeing to Live Aid; it neglects to add that their hesitation probably stemmed from how they had just broken a UN boycott by playing a series of gigs at Sun City, the whites-only playground in apartheid South Africa.

The film is part-produced by Queen’s longtime manager Jim Beach and two of Mercury’s bandmates, Brian May and Roger Taylor. Which is another way of saying: don’t expect anything more than a safe gloss over the Queen tale. It leans into Mercury’s experience, telling of his relationship with his parents, his early ‘marriage’ and his coming out as gay. But the film’s perspective feels outside-looking-in on Mercury’s world: its attitude toward sex and drugs is coy and uncomfortably close to the small-world thinking it claims to dismiss.

Luckily, the music wins out over all the myth-making and, which is surely what the band prefers: a lively, uncomplicated jukebox movie. This is a feature-length earworm that leaves ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, ‘We Are the Champions’ and the rest wriggling in your cochlea and helping to drown out any inner whisper suggesting that you’ve just had the wool pulled magnificently over your eyes by these masters of rock theatrics.

By: Dave Calhoun

Posted:

Release details

Rated:
12A
Release date:
Wednesday October 24 2018
Duration:
134 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Bryan Singer
Screenwriter:
Anthony McCarten
Cast:
Rami Malek
Mike Myers
Joseph Mazzello

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Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

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LiveReviews|5
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tastemaker

I was concerned before seeing this film that I wouldn’t enjoy it as I had heard some of the early reviews weren’t great. Not wanting to spoil it for myself I avoided reading them and hoped for the best; I was not disappointed. The film is absolutely magical, moving and engrossing from start to finish. The casting is incredible and they 100% do justice to the amazing music. Having now read some of the reviews the criticism seems to focus on the fact that some of the darker, grittier aspects of Freddie’s life are not dwelled upon. While this may be true, that’s not the kind of film this was trying to be. In my opinion, those darker moments are appropriately signposted and referenced without them becoming the crux of the film. After all, this is intended to be a celebration of a musical legend and in that respect it absolutely delivers.

Tastemaker

You can tell this film is designed to be pure musical entertainment. And it is just that! It is musical entertainment on the big screen. It makes you wish you could have seen Queen live while Freddie was still alive. In that respect, it is a triumph!


Rami Malek is spectacular as Mercury too. He carries the movie, funny enough, a bit like Freddie carried the band. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get the “oscar buzz” flying around him soon.


I just wish the story would go a bit deeper into the nitty and gritty, bring a bit of the drama to life. It weirdly feels a bit tame for the biopic of such a character and band. Everything seems to only be said in-between takes and in innuendo...


tastemaker

So 3 Queen fans went to the cinema with low expectations, particularly of the singing voice.  Three came out saying how wonderful the character of Freddie was portrayed and how well the songs were sung.  Everyone knows the story of Queen - and much of it was missing - but taking the film on its own merit, it was a marvellous piece of entertainment.

tastemaker

I remember going into the primary school in which I was teaching on Monday 25th November 1991 and giving an assembly about Queen and Freddie Mercury. I managed to show self-control but that's far from how I felt. Watching Bohemian Rhapsody there were moments when the tears welled and I was taken back to November 1991. Rami Malek tells us he ' never worked this hard in (his) life.' It is almost like watching Freddie himself. Oscar worthy performance? Most certainly. You see the formation and rise of Queen. From small gigs to Wembley and the world. Some music comes and disappears but Queen's music has cemented itself in the corridors of classic pop music- clever, melodious and innovative. Film, music, actors and direction all merit applause.


One of the films of the year.

The brilliant, emotional and heartbreaking story of a true legend, probably one of the biggest ever.

Queen was always one of my favourite bands but to see their creative only makes me appreciate them more! 👑