20th CENTURY FOX (2018)

 

Director: Bryan Singer

 

Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers

Scaramouche, DID you do the Fandango?

 

Bohemian Rhapsody tackles the origins and rise of one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, Queen, and one of the most flamboyant frontmen of all time, Freddie Mercury. Like the bands history, the trials and tribulations of getting the movie completed and on the big screen were troublesome and 20th Century Fox must have been wondering if this was real life or just fantasy – however, with Dexter Fletcher brought on board to steer the ship, we do finally have a big screen story of Queen and Freddie.

Known for his magnetic stage presence and powerful vocals, Freddie Mercury has always been an intriguing figure and here, Rami Malek is tasked with portraying the icon. Big shoes and a tough task but, thankfully, Malek is up to the task and more – it’s a magnificent performance that captures Mercury’s swagger, mannerisms, charisma, energy, and insecurities and ensures that every scene belongs to him (which is apt). Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello certainly look like Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon (respectively), however, their stories aren’t delved into nearly enough throughout the movie – a movie co-produced by May and Taylor themselves. Lucy Boynton, too, is used sparingly in her role as Mary, Mercury’s lifelong love and friend. Also, Mike Myers was granted a fictional character to play as a thank you for that scene in Wayne’s World that reignited Queen’s popularity Stateside. Whilst Mercury gets the lion’s share of screen time, the necessity to fill the runtime with as much as possible did leave aspects of his life largely untouched – his upbringing, more depth surrounding his sexuality and AIDS, the solo years. However, what we did get was more than enough to inform anyone who wasn’t aware of Mercury and his story.

 

If you don’t know the man, chances are you know the songs. Hearing those songs will never not get my foot tapping and it was a joy to watch as the songs took shape creatively – band in-fighting and all. The concert scenes throughout are shot and performed well and there’s a nice urgency to them. Having the legendary Live Aid performance see the movie out was excellent and it was a marvellously shot finale. It was one of my top movie moments of this year seeing the way it was portrayed and how every eke of emotion was wrung out of it.

 

Directorial changes during production could have led to some inconsistencies in tone and style (see: Solo: A Star Wars Story). Surprisingly, Dexter Fletcher and original director Bryan Singer managed to create a consistent vision (One Vision, you could say) despite the near-chaos of the production. Sasha Baren Cohen was originally attached as Freddie, though later left the project citing creative differences with May and Taylor – he wanted a gritty R-rated movie really delving into Mercury’s life which gave May and Taylor the heebie-jeebies, and I have to admit, I would have loved to have seen that version. For this version, I would have liked to have seen ten to fifteen minutes more on the runtime to allow for that greater scope of storytelling. I did think it was well-written for what was delivered, though, and there was plenty of fun during the movie as well alongside the heavier moments later on. Also, convince me that hearing Mercury first tentatively play that iconic piano riff from Rhapsody wasn’t plain awesome?

 

Despite some fairly wild deviations from the true-to-life story of Freddie Mercury and Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody is still an intensely satisfying movie led by a fearless performance from Rami Malek. The movie shows Freddie was one of a kind and, also, that NO ONE rocks harder than the British.

November 14th 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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