Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher direct Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton and Gwilym Lee in this biopic of Freddie Mercury touching on his private life and celebrating the music of Queen. 

There’s a lot to be cautious about when watching the “official” Queen movie. The movie had a troubled production history. Surviving band members Brian May and Roger Taylor were very hands on / controlling / protective of the property before approving a lead and gifting access to the song rights. Bryan Singer was publicly sacked mid production for not appearing on set, with rumours about his sexual past and conflicts with eventual star Rami Malek lingering more persuasively than the excuse of family illness. Dexter Fletcher took over the end of production and reshoots. Many doubt the transgressive queerness of Freddie’s decadent lifestyle could be told in a PG-13 movie that often focuses on the band’s conflicts and Freddie’s early girlfriend. And having seen it twice the alarm bells should have rang. The first hour is clunky and cheesy. It is the epitome of the musical biopic formula. The band come across as dicks in general and especially in their interactions to Freddie. The stories being recreated are the duller ones from the talk show circuit, old beefs with producers and critics are re-aired. There is a definitive feeling the movie’s overriding ethos is “We are the champions but we have plenty of time to remind the losers who didn’t realise we were when we weren’t”. It is an awkward, barely competent narrative. As for Mr Mercury’s coming out, you get really scared in those early acts his homosexuality is only going to be represented in a few hinted at winks. Freddie might fancy boys too, he might just be scared of using public toilets if another bloke is in there. THEN SOMETHING HAPPENS… I’d say it is around the lengthy recording of Bohemian Rhapsody sequence. Suddenly the legend takes over and you don’t care what facts are whitewashed or how unlikable the background players are. Malek starts being shot from the waist up, he takes on heroic proportions. His performance matches it. A flamboyant yet vulnerable figure you really root for, really care about. It overcomes the strange moments later when the band rejects him for being a bit overbearingly lonely. It fuels the set piece live performances – the moments where the film and the iconic popular music shines. By the time we get to Freddie being controlled by an insidious lover and AIDS rears it inevitable head you love Malek as Mercury. Truly feel your little socks off about him. Forget A Star is Born. This is the powerhouse rock to riches story of the decade. The full on, all out, perfectionist recreation of Live Aid finale is the icing on the cake for quite the big time crowd pleaser.

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