BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Is this the real life?

Total Film - - Contents -

The show must go on? Or do stop me now?

We’re a fam­ily,” says Queen’s big-haired gui­tar hero Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody. Who would have guessed that meant fam­ily-friendly? Queen fi­nally gets a toned-down 12A biopic, which may come as a sur­prise to those ex­pect­ing scenes of the hard­core par­ty­ing the band was famed for. In­stead, the guys en­joy tea and cake.

The film is sim­i­larly ten­ta­tive about front­man Fred­die Mer­cury’s sex­u­al­ity; there’s the odd mon­tage of him glid­ing through leather bars, and sug­ges­tive glances to­wards men at truck stops. What the film does – and does well – how­ever, is pay trib­ute to the singer’s ex­u­ber­ant stage pres­ence. It’s a

stu­pen­dous turn by Rami Malek, the Mr. Ro­bot star cap­tur­ing Fred­die’s 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 show at 1985’s Live Aid. But re­ally, it’s a Great­est Hits pack­age – we see drum­mer Roger Tay­lor (Ben Hardy) record­ing the “Galileo” lyrics for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, May (Gwilym Lee) com­ing up with stomp­ing an­them ‘We Will Rock You’, and bass player John Dea­con (Joseph Mazzello) pro­pel­ling Queen into disco 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 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 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 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. James Mot­tram

tHE VER­DICt

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

There’s no stop­ping Rami Malek now…

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