Bo­hemian Rhap­sody

Variety - - Reviews -

Di­rec­tor: Bryan Singer Star­ring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boyn­ton, Gwilym Lee

Fred­die Mer­cury was the most ma­jes­ti­cally de­bauched of all rock stars. A bad-boy diva with a fa­mous over­bite that made him look not just sexy but li­bidi­nous, he strut­ted around on­stage with the come-hither flam­boy­ance of a leer­ing vam­pire prince. And, of course, no one in rock his­tory had pipes like his. In his hey­day as the lead singer of Queen, dur­ing the mid- to late-1970s, Mer­cury crooned and wailed, but more than that he soared, like Robert Plant fused with the spir­its of Cher and Tina Turner. He was as dow­nand- dirty as any rock ’ n’ roller, but his melodic glide could lift you to the heav­ens. Queen’s iconic an­them “We Will Rock You” was writ­ten as a call-and-re­sponse be­tween the band and its fans, but the way Mer­cury sang it, with his snaky grandil­o­quence (“Buddy, you’re a boy, make a big noise play­ing in the street …”) the song came off as his un­holy credo. The mes­sage was: He will rock you.

How do you cast the role of Fred­die Mer­cury? It’s like find­ing some­one to play Mick Jag­ger or Michael Jack­son — you’re go­ing up against the real thing, a pop de­ity who has never stopped liv­ing in­side our imag­i­na­tions. Yet in the scrappy and sprawl­ing rock biopic “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody,” Rami Malek takes on the role of Fred­die Mer­cury as if born to it. Swarthy and in­sin­u­at­ing, Malek is out­fit­ted with a set of fake front teeth, a re­cre­ation of the jut­ting Fred­die over­bite that works well enough (though it’s of­ten a bit dis­tract­ing), and he winds up look­ing, and in­hab­it­ing, the part to a re­mark­able de­gree.

On­stage, Malek’s Fred­die is a stud­ded leather pea­cock, swoony and lib­er­ated, let­ting the life force pour out of him in a glo-

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