After many years in development hell, the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen has finally been told. The question you have to ask yourself is “was it worth the wait?”.
And, by God, the definitive answer is a resounding “YES!”.
Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the life of Farrokh Bulsara, a flamboyant man of traditional Indian parents. Creating the rock band Queen with guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor, and bassist John Deacon, Bulsara changes his name to Freddie Mercury and the group becomes one of the biggest groups in musical history before his sad death from AIDS-related pneumonia.
The trouble with biographies is that they run the risk of being sensationalist and callous to its subject. Mercury was a gay man, and the opportunity to exploit his story with salacious gossip and sex would have been tempting. Thankfully, Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor were very hands-on in the production and prevented the movie taking a scandalous turn.
Director Bryan Singer (and an uncredited Dexter Fletcher) handles the film with sensitivity, tact and compassion, if not occasionally going a bit tongue-in-cheek with his depiction of Mercury.
Rami Malek plays Freddie in an overly camp demeanour. He comes across as more Frank N Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show than the lead singer in a global phenomenon. One can’t help but wonder whether he channelled Tim Curry in trying to find the right note. Although a slight similarity is present in Malek, the actor is made to look a trifle goofy with the protruding teeth, a distinctive feature of Mercury. But they are taken too far and he looks like Kenny Everett doing a Bee Gees impression.
However, in the grand scheme of things, these are very small flaws as Malek is near perfect as the real man in his gesticulations on the stage. Like the genuine Freddie Mercury, Malek throws the microphone stand around as if it’s an extension of his penis; shagging the audience into wanting more.
Artistic licences aside, the meticulous attention to detail is exemplary and deserves to be applauded. Gwilym Lee is pitch perfect as Brian May. The look and the voice is staggering. Unrecognisable from his childhood acting days of Jurassic Park, Joseph (Joe) Mazello is spot on as John Deacon. Even the sets are astounding. Whether it’s the recreation of the “I Want To Break Free“ video or the Live Aid stage, the design team have earned the respect of the audience.
It’s clear that Bohemian Rhapsody is not a cheap money spinner. With the effort that’s gone into it, the film is so obviously a labour of love and seeks to honour the brilliance and talent that was Freddie Mercury. This is no That’ll Be The Day/Stardust movie that focuses primarily on the excesses of being a rock star. This is Brian May and Roger Taylor’s love letter to their much missed friend and a celebration of a great voice, a great presence, and, more than anything, a great man.
A real winner!