BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (12)
D: Bryan Singer (& Dexter Fletcher)
20th Century Fox/New Regency/GK/Queen Films (Graham King & Jim Beach)
UK/USA 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 2018
W: Anthony McCarten & Peter Morgan
DP: Newton Thomas Sigel
Ed: John Ottman
Mus: John Ottman; Queen
PD: Aaron Haye
Cos: Julian Day
Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury), Gwilym Lee (Brian May), Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor), Joseph Mazzello (John Deacon), Lucy Boynton (Mary Austin), Aiden Gillen (John Reid), Allen Leach (Paul Prenter), Aaron McCusker (Jim Hutton), Mike Myers (Ray Foster)
Like the classic song Bohemian Rhapsody, which combines several styles, genres and musical directions into its composition, the same could be said about this biographical film of Queen and its enigmatic frontman, Freddie Mercury. It simply can't decide what type of movie it wishes to be, charting the bands success (via Mercury's point of view) from their formation in 1970's until their show-stopping performance at 1985's Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium.
I should prelude this review by saying I'm a huge fan of Queen and their music, and although I was a little too young to appreciate their appearance at Live Aid, Freddie Mercury's death in 1991 was huge news. Groundbreaking in the fact that he was the first high profile celebrity who had succumbed to AIDS-related illness.
Unfortunately, the film doesn't really tackle this, as it plays out a pastiche of the band's greatest hits, without digging its nails in and uncovering anything particularly candid.
The remaining band members served as consultants on the movie, and its a little too obvious that they were reluctant for anything negative to be committed to a film which charts their rise to success, beset by a minor blip when Mercury recorded a solo album in the mid-1980's.
The story also takes advantage of artistic licence, though this shouldn't be an excuse for a lack of research, anachronisms and some heavy-handed in-jokes which practically break the fourth wall (Mike Myers' may as well have winked at the camera with his cringeworthy cameo role). The film was plagued with production difficulties (director Bryan Singer sacked before completion, etc.), but this doesn't really come across in the final cut - although it does feel like too many cooks spoiling the broth.
The film does have many positives though. The main one being the cast, who physically resemble the band at every point of the movie, none more so than Rami Malek who is absolutely fantastic as Freddie Mercury, nailing the showman's actions, mannerisms, quirks and speaking voice (all the singing was obviously lip-synced, but this was still done incredibly well). It was certainly no surprise that the performance was rewarded at the Oscars and other film awards, despite the flaws of the film and its screenplay. Lucy Boynton also deserves some praise as Mary Austin, Mercury's girlfriend before he came to terms with his true sexuality. It's unfortunate she wasn't given more to work with and a key scene for potential drama fizzled out (I can't say either way whether this scene was true to life, but since much of the rest of the film was dramatised, why couldn't this scene be?)
Mercury's relationship with Jim Hutton is only explored on the periphery before the film culminates in a truly impressive fashion, and I have to admit that the recreation of the Live Aid scenes are worth the price of admission alone. The execution, performances and filmmaking trickery for the reenactment are easily amongst the film highlights of 2018 and make all the flaws in the buildup beforehand quite forgivable.
Still, there was an opportunity here, especially with such a great cast, to make a masterpiece worthy for such an iconic band. It's what Freddie Mercury deserved, and from that point of view, it is just that little bit disappointing.
Still, the final act will definitely rock you - and could potentially introduce an entire new generation to one of the greatest musical acts of all time.