Bo­hemian Rhap­sody At the movies...

James Mot­tram of GT’s sis­ter mag­a­zine To­tal Film re­views the biopic that ev­ery­body’s talk­ing about.

Guitar Techniques - - THE GENIUS OF BRIAN MAY -

“We’re a fam­ily,” says Brian May, Queen’s big-haired gui­tar hero, in Bo­hemian Rhap­sody. Who would’ve guessed that meant fam­ily-friendly? One of Bri­tain’s biggestever bands, Queen fi­nally gets a toned-down 12A biopic, which may well come as a sur­prise to those ex­pect­ing scenes of hard­core par­ty­ing the band was famed for in its ’70s hey­day. In­stead, the guys en­joy tea and cake, cel­e­brat­ing lead singer Fred­die Mer­cury’s birthday at his par­ents’ house.

The film is sim­i­larly ten­ta­tive about Mer­cury’s sex­u­al­ity; there’s the odd montage of him glid­ing through leather bars, and a few sug­ges­tive glances to­wards men at truck stops. What the film does – and does well – is pay trib­ute to the singer’s ex­u­ber­ant stage pres­ence. It’s a stu­pen­dous per­for­mance by Rami Malek, the Mr Ro­bot star cap­tur­ing Fred­die’s har­le­quin-suited swag­ger with Os­car-wor­thy skill.

Di­rected by Bryan Singer, who was fired in the fi­nal weeks of pro­duc­tion and re­placed by Dex­ter Fletcher, Bo­hemian Rhap­sody drives to­wards a defin­ing mo­ment: the band’s tri­umphant turn at 1985’s Live Aid. But re­ally, it’s a Great­est Hits pack­age – we see drum­mer Roger Tay­lor (Ben Hardy) record­ing the op­er­atic ‘Galileo’ lyrics for Bo­hemian Rhap­sody, May (Gwilym Lee) com­ing up with the stomp­ing an­them We Will Rock You, and bass player John Dea­con (Joseph Mazzello) pro­pel­ling Queen into the disco era with that riff for An­other One Bites The Dust.

The script by An­thony McCarten (The The­ory Of Ev­ery­thing) crunches the chronol­ogy when it comes to per­sonal mat­ters, too; not least Fred­die re­veal­ing that he has AIDS (which would ul­ti­mately lead to his death in 1991) dur­ing re­hearsals for Live Aid, when in fact he was di­ag­nosed two years later. Like­wise, the singer re­unit­ing with part­ner Jim Hut­ton (Aaron McCusker), then tak­ing him for (more) tea and cake with his par­ents on the day of Live Aid all smacks of screen­writ­ing fan­tasy.

Yet, to be fair, McCarten does mine emo­tion from Mer­cury’s arc. A for­mer im­mi­grant and Heathrow bag­gage han­dler, our hero finds glory on stage; off it, how­ever, he strug­gles with lone­li­ness and hav­ing to hide his sex­u­al­ity. Fred­die’s ten­der re­la­tion­ship with long-term girl­friend Mary Austin (Lucy Boyn­ton) gives the film its heart, while scenes with his dis­ap­prov­ing fa­ther (Ace Bhatti), who tries to in­stil “good thoughts, good words, good deeds” in his son, are touch­ing.

What works less well is Fred­die’s re­la­tion­ship with Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), part of his man­age­ment team, who comes across as the film’s one-di­men­sional vil­lain. Ditto EMI’s Ray Fos­ter (a heav­ily dis­guised Mike My­ers), who fails to see the ge­nius in Bo­hemian Rhap­sody. The CGI crowds at Live Aid are an­other nig­gle; but when you see Malek strut­ting his stuff to We Are The Cham­pi­ons, you prob­a­bly won’t care.

THE VER­DICT: Def­i­nitely not Killer Queen, but thanks to a blind­ing turn from Malek, fans of the band will get their kicks.

Rami Malek (Fred­die Mer­cury) and Gwilym Lee (Brian May) star in Bo­hemian Rhap­sody

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