Director: Bryan Singer
In a touching scene in Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen drummer Roger Taylor says to the band’s lead singer, “Freddie, you’re a legend.” The band members – lead guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon, and Taylor – have just learnt the news from Freddie Mercury that he has AIDS. This is the mid-eighties and Freddie knows he is dying. He will have no sympathy, but he will take a hug from his band of brothers. Taylor was right – Freddie Mercury was a legend, a voice like no other. The film, Bohemian Rhapsody recreates the musical phenomenon of Queen through the life of its lead singer.
Perhaps you’re a devoted Queen fan, or maybe you only know Freddie as that Parsi boy who became a musical superstar. It doesn’t matter – once the music takes over in the film, there’s no stopping it. You’re gonna have a good time – just like Freddie sang.
In fact, the film flags when it gets into the biopic. This is standard vanilla life-story, with highs and lows, the mapping of Freddie and Queen’s meteoric rise, their recording of iconic songs like Another One Bites The Dust and Bohemian Rhapsody, the insecurities, the fights, and Freddie’s aching loneliness. Queen proudly called themselves a band of misfits for misfits, and the film dutifully recounts Freddie’s struggles to find himself.
The first half of the film is slow to take flight, especially the stilted scenes between Freddie, born Farrokh Balsara, and his family. But the movie gets wings as it gets into the tender relationship between Freddie, who was gay, and the love of his life, pretty store-clerk Mary Austin. Queen’s band members, all played spot-on, bring forth the camaraderie and wonderful alchemy between the four. This band loved each other and it showed, even in their fights.
Ultimately, Bohemian Rhapsody is leading man Rami Malek’s inspiring solo. His fake teeth might distract you, but Malek effectively captures Freddie’s pain and his need to belong. He also channels the strut, the flamboyance and the showmanship with flair.
The film gives directing credit to Bryan Singer, but he was sacked and replaced by Dexter Fletcher halfway through production. Never mind that – the movie soars with Queen’s spectacular reunion on stage for the famous Live Aid benefit concert in 1985. Cleverly the songs are accompanied by lyrics on screen so there’s a good chance your theatre might turn into a sing-along experience if there are enough fans in attendance.
I’m going with three out of five for Bohemian Rhapsody. The storytelling may not have the operatic quality of Queen’s music or the unforgettable notes of Freddie’s voice, but as a film, this is easy come, easy go.