Pomp rock rockers Queen had so many anthemic hits that the filmmakers of Bohemian Rhapsody had a wealth of choice for what to include and whilst it would have been tempting to suggest that, ‘Who wants to live forever?’ would have been a decent song to end on here the film makers do actually do use it. But many of the lyrics are startlingly prescient in the Live Aid performance that book ends the film and it’s a reminder of just how majestic as performers Queen were at their peak.
Bohemian Rhapsody is the long gestating project that has had a number of changes in lead actors and, when it came to the shoot , directors too, but the tone of the film remains consistent rewinding back to their early days just as they are about to start their captivating Live Aid gig. Freddie Mercury, as he renamed himself having worked as a baggage handler, watches Brian May and Roger Taylor perform in a pub band and offers to become their lead singer when there singer jumps ship for another band. It’s from this point that the film whisks through their early days at a break neck pace before they become one of the biggest bands in the world (and still hold the record apparently for the largest paying concert audience) and in that regards it may not satisfy everyone. John Deacon, always the most reclusive member of the band, just appears as the bassist and has little to do throughout.
But Bohemian Rhapsody is about Mercury more than anyone else and the film is not afraid to cover his conflicted sexuality even when he had a common law wife Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) who he came to heavily rely on. She comes across as one of his few true friends he does have, unafraid to tell him the truth when she needs to.It’s a role indicative of the film in that it’s not fully fleshed out much the same as their lawyer / manager Jim Beach (Tom Hollander) although there’s a good turn from an unrecognisable Mike Myers as record company boss Ray Foster (a shoo-in if they ever do a biopic of ELO’s Jeff Lynne) who vehemently disagrees with them about releasing their operatic Bohemian Rhapsody as a single. It’s Myers who has a great joke too self referencing Wayne’s World head banging in the car moment. Anthony McCarten’s (Darkest Hour) script has a load of very funny laugh out loud lines despite it skimming over some moments ( their early eighties flop albums and singles in the US barely gets a mention).
But the success of Bohemian Rhapsody falls squarely on the shoulders of its central performance by Rami Malek and he is quite simply superb in the role inhabiting it so convincingly capturing his voice and swagger that come awards season means he must surely be a contender. Mercury died at 45 years old never leaving a memoir and with only his press conference and occasional interviews leaving a hint as to the real man. One moment confidently flamboyant, the next a conflicted, timid, child like figure desperate for a friend and to be loved. The casual racism that he was treated with is only hinted at due to his parental heritage and his father was clearly not happy with his career path and uncomfortable with his sons sexuality.
What the script makes clear is that the band were what he regards as his family and whereas Deacon is underwritten to the point of invisibility, Taylor is the shagger of the band unable to remember his girlfriends names before he settles down and May as the brains and all happy to argue over the recordings to the benefit of what turned out to be unforgettable songs though some the genesis of We Will Rock you is slightly unbelievable.
It all leads up that that performance in 1985’s Live Aid by which time the band had all but split up and their performance almost never happened due Mercury’s selfish Irish lover at the time who was a malign influence on him as glimpsed in a malicious tell all interview he did once Mercury rightly dumped him. For anyone who saw Live Aid at the time Queen’s performance was undoubtedly the highlight of the entire show and any band following them simply could never hope to compete. Their set is brilliantly realized with a Wembley stadium, now long gone, superbly realized and a stunning shot that swoops across the heads of the crowd as the band strut their stuff with Mercury giving a masterclass in showmanship to every X Factor nobody.
At over two hours Bohemian Rhapsody moves swiftly through the band and Mercury’s history ending with Live Aid which arguably was the pinnacle and defining moment of their career. The film won’t satisfy everyone but there’s no doubting that it’s a fitting tribute to a remarkable artist with Rami Malek’s equally remarkable performance.
Here’s the Bohemian Rhapsody trailer…..
Here’s Rami Malek, Brian May, Roger Taylor & Mike Myers at the World premiere speaking to the audience….