New Queen Biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” Will Rock You

Early word is that Rami Malek  will take home all the awards for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. After seeing the film last night, I agree. Somewhat.

He goes big and bold… But it’s the small moments and expressions that truly elevate his performance.
– Kimber Myers, The Playlist

Critics will knock this film for trying to match the actor’s look to the real person. They will also have issue with the Live Aid performance of the film, completely reenacted from the 1985 concert. I think Malek will get an Oscar nomination, but not a win, in particular due to the timing of the film’s release. He deserves to win and will get several awards, not the Oscar. He won’t win for the look, but how he nailed the mannerisms, accent, and especially the tone of Mercury’s speaking voice. If you ever heard Mercury speak in an interview, Malek’s voice in the film is keenly in tune and at times, so real it is scary. The rest of the cast nail their portrayals as well.

queen

Queen fans are quite familiar with the history of the band, the hits, the albums, the stories. How Freddie Mercury was the driver and the other three, while certainly musically gifted, were along for the ride. They were the wealthiest rock group in 1980. And to this day, there are many musicians and performers that list Queen as one of their primary influences.

It’s difficult to make a film about Queen and Freddie Mercury and bring anything new to the table. That said, the film is engaging, particularly in documenting Queen’s rise to fame, yet turns into a concert film of sorts when documenting the Live Aid concert in 1985. A concert film of four men pretending to be Queen. It isn’t a great problem, the music is good, as long as you keep in mind you’re seeing what Brian May and Roger Taylor want you to see about Freddie Mercury and those surrounding the band.

The movie, as it is, is fine. But it could have been so much more… I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
– Joanna Langfield, The Movie Minute

I have three issues with the film. First, the musical timeline is inaccurate. “Fat Bottomed Girls” appears as a performance in 1974, on Queen’s first tour of America. The song was part of the 1978 album Jazz. The epic “We Will Rock You” from 1977’s News of the World appears much later than 1977 in the film, part of Mercury’s tardiness for rehearsals, and withdrawal period from the rest of the band – which is also made to appear it was years when Queen was quite productive musically between 1981 and 1985, releasing Greatest Hits, Hot Space, and Works during that period. Other points in the timeline are inaccurate, but it is the placement of music that flags the errors most.

My second is the treatment of John Deacon in the film, brilliantly played by Joseph Mazello. Deacon was the quiet one in Queen, opting to stay in the background, even wearing a sweater vest in some performances while Freddie was in leather pants wearing a crown far upstage. John Deacon left Queen when Freddie died in 1991, only playing three other performances. He retired from music and is still involved in the financial decisions regarding Queen, but I caught hints of some passive aggressiveness in how he is presented in the film. For instance, there’s not any history of where he came to Queen. His contribution of “Another One Bites The Dust” gets a nod (in the wrong order in the timeline of course), but there isn’t much else presented about John Deacon. My hunch is May and Taylor aren’t happy he left Queen and Deacon isn’t happy they are touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. Deacon (accurately portrayed as a gentleman in the film) isn’t going to make waves about it publicly.

Lastly is the end of the film. It’s basically the Live Aid performance followed by credits of what happened to Freddie afterward. I would much rather seen how Innuendo, Queen’s final record with Mercury while he was alive was made. Interviews and documentary footage of those sessions shows Mercury as productive as possible, showing up on time, creating a huge catalog of song in the time he has left. While the ending would have been sad, people know how it really ended. But this is a movie, and we have to have everyone walking away energized and happy.

Again, I would say you are seeing Queen and Freddie Mercury as Brian May and Roger Taylor want you to see it. Some critics call it “sanitized”. I would agree with that assessment. While they reveal a couple of things that were not widely known about Freddie (his relationship with Jim Hutton for example), it’s a tribute more than being historically accurate.

It’s a satisfying, hammy turn in a movie with no other meat on the bone.
– David Ehrlich, IndieWire

I saw Queen live in 1982 from the front row. That isn’t possible now of course, so if you want to experience Queen as close to the original lineup rather than the “+Adam Lambert” version (which I don’t agree with, by the way), see the film. Don’t expect it to be a historically accurate reenactment, enjoy the story and the music. Because the music was truly something to enjoy when it was happening. That is the part that can’t be rewritten or changed – it will endure forever.

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