Bohemian Rhapsody (M18)
Starring Rami Malek, Ben Hardy, Lucy Boynton, Joseph Mazzello, Gwilym Lee, Mike Myers
Directed by Bryan Singer
Queen is the legendary British rock band with a string of memorable hits and riffs — ‘We Are The Champion’s, ‘Radio GaGa’, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’, ‘I Want To Break Free’, ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Under Pressure’, ‘Another One Bites The Dust’, to name a few. Strangers to pop or Queen’s music may not imagine that those rip-roaring, fist-throwing anthems were penned or co-penned by a troubled soul who did not quite know how to love himself or even the one he deemed the “love of my life” (girlfriend and lover Mary Austin).
If the story of singer Freddie Mercury had been hinted in past tabloid-gossips, this film connects the dots to relate how a young, aspiring musician from a working-class family became the front-man of Queen — from the band’s meteoric rise to its near-disintegration along the way alongside the inner turmoils of its flamboyant star Mercury, who finally succumbed to AIDS in 1991.
Bohemian Rhapsody is rather accomplished an entertainment (even to non-devotees of the band, like myself). It is as much a biopic as a tribute, lovingly envisioned by its producers (including surviving Queen members, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor) and director Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns) — though the latter was reported to have been fired from the project before completion, the directorial credit names him and him alone. (Dexter Fletcher, the director of the upcoming Elton John biopic Rocketman, stepped in after Singer's exit.)
There are online reports of the film’s factual inaccuracies — the complaints sound rather trivial when one considers the dramatic factors involved in a film’s storytelling (hey, it’s not a documentary). On the other hand, we should be glad that the censors here were kind enough not to excise the male kissing scenes.
Considering how larger than life and distinctive Mercury is as a music figure, it’s almost hard to imagine anyone playing him other than the man himself. In this respect, actor Rami Malek did an excellent job — however methodical he appears at times. While he does not exactly ‘become’ Mercury before our eyes (too short, a little slight in physique), he does a splendid job ‘impersonating’ Mercury, much as that sounds like a dubious compliment.
Much of the film’s success rests on its well-paced and moving storytelling, building to a climactic tour de force that the band and Mercury displayed at the Live Aid concert in 1985. It may miss out on the capricious appeal of some other rock movies (like Velvet Goldmine) but it more than makes up with an earthy approach to the real-life events the film ardently honours in the name of ‘sound entertainment’.
It is utterly Hollywood, without apologies… rightfully so, going by what it aims to be. (****)
Photo: TPG News/Click Photos