RHAP­SODY OVER­COMES AD­VER­SITY

The new Fred­die Mer­cury and Queen biopic lurched from one ma­jor drama to an­other but it hasn’t stopped star Rami Malek from turn­ing in an eye-catch­ing per­for­mance as the trou­bled late, great rock star

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - NEWS - VICKY ROACH

What’s per­haps most re­mark­able about this Fred­die Mer­cury and Queen biopic is how well it has sur­vived the tu­mul­tuous back­stage drama that dogged it al­most ev­ery step of the way.

Sacha Baron Co­hen, who ini­tially signed on to play the role of Queen’s iconic lead singer, left the project in 2013 due to cre­ative dif­fer­ences with the re­main­ing band mem­bers.

A year later, re­place­ment di­rec­tor Dex­ter Fletcher also parted ways with Bo­hemian Rhap­sody – pre­sum­ably on good terms – along with his new lead, Ben Whishaw.

Although you won’t see his name in the fi­nal cred­its (due to Di­rec­tors Guild of Amer­ica rules), Fletcher ( Ed­die the Ea­gle, Rock­et­man) re­turned to the project in De­cem­ber af­ter di­rec­tor Bryan Singer ( X-Men, Su­per­man Re­turns) was sacked, two-thirds the way through film­ing, due to un­ex­plained ab­sences and clashes with cast and crew.

Lead ac­tor Rami Malek tran­scends these sig­nif­i­cant be­hind-the-scenes ob­sta­cles – as well as an awk­ward pros­thetic mouth­piece – to cre­ate a soul­ful im­pres­sion of the late, great rock star, suc­cess­fully chan­nelling Mer­cury’s sin­u­ous stage per­sona in a se­ries of charis­matic con­cert per­for­mances un­der­pinned by Queen’s rous­ing back cat­a­logue. He even pulls off We Are The Cham­pi­ons’ spray on, mono­chrome cat­suit.

When it comes to Mer­cury’s sex­ual awak­en­ing, well, lets just say that what hap­pens on the road, largely stays on the road, although there is one vi­brant se­quence set in a gay leather bar that sug­gests the pri­mal ex­cite­ment of this pro­mis­cu­ous un­der­ground scene.

And there is a party that hints at the wild­ness and de­bauch­ery of Mer­cury’s ex­treme life­style – while si­mul­ta­ne­ously in­tro­duc­ing a fu­ture love in­ter­est.

But although Bo­hemian Rhap­sody feels like an “au­tho­rised” ver­sion of Mer­cury’s story – Queen gui­tarist Brian May (played here by Gwilym Lee) and drum­mer Roger Tay­lor (Ben Hardy) are cred­ited as mu­si­cal con­sul­tants – it’s more than mere ha­giog­ra­phy.

The singer’s long-term com­pan­ion Mary Austin (Lucy Boyn­ton) proves a solid coun­ter­point to his later li­ai­son with ob­se­quious per­sonal man­ager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech).

Bo­hemian Rhap­sody por­trays Mer­cury as a man who was born to per­form, but who strug­gled to find an au­then­tic iden­tity off stage.

And de­spite its che­quered his­tory, the biopic hits all the right beats – even if one sus­pects that some of them have been ma­nip­u­lated to fit the des­ig­nated rhythm.

It would be nice to think Mer­cury’s strict, dis­ap­prov­ing Zoroas­trian dad did even­tu­ally ac­cept his gay son – but the tim­ing of their em­brace, on the way to Live Aid, is re­mark­ably con­ve­nient.

Bo­hemian Rhap­sody is be­ing pro­moted as a “foot-stomp­ing” cel­e­bra­tion of Queen, their mu­sic and their ex­tra­or­di­nary lead singer. That pretty much sums it up. Bo­hemian Rhap­sody (M) opens in cin­e­mas to­day

Rami Malek chan­nels the late, great rock icon Fred­die Mer­cury in a scene from the much-an­tic­i­pated new Queen biopic Bo­hemian Rhap­sody.

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