Bohemian Rhapsody

Directed by Bryan Singer who is best known for 1995’s Usual Suspects and several X-Men comic book film adaptations beginning in 2000, Bohemian Rhapsody is an entertaining biopic about the hugely successful pop rock band Queen with particular focus on the eccentric and talented lead singer Freddie Mercury who is brilliantly played by the lead actor Rami Malek. We first meet the Indian-British Parsi Farrokh Bulsara, the real birth name of Freddie Mercury played by the mesmerizing Malek who is best known for his Emmy Award-winning performance on the TV series Mr. Robot, working a dead end job at London’s Heathrow Airport, and he happens upon his favorite local band Smile in 1970 who are looking for a new lead singer. The film then follows the meteoric rise of the band after it changes its name to Queen and explores the flamboyant Freddie Mercury’s relationship with the other band members, including the lead guitarist Brian May who is played by Gwilym Lee, the drummer Roger Taylor who is played by Ben Hardy, and the bass guitarist John Deacon who is played by Joseph Mazzello. Following the stereotypical formula of a movie about musicians, the story chronicles the often contentious issues surrounding the different personalities of the band members and the desire for the lead singer Freddie Mercury to control the band and eventually embark on a solo career. It also explores the behind-the-scenes business decisions that ultimately allows Queen to become an international sensation: the one-time manager John Reid, played by Aidan Gillen who is best known for his role on the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, and their lawyer and eventual manager Jim Beach, played by critically acclaimed British actor Tom Hollander, fight with the studio EMI about what music should be released on the radio. In a fun twist, the executive Ray Foster who does not think that the hit song Bohemian Rhapsody should be played on the radio is played by Mike Myers, who himself supported the idea of using the song in the 1992 comedy Wayne’s World despite the studio’s hesitation. Since it mostly follows Freddie Mercury and his complicated personal life, the script reveals his unusual relationship with his girlfriend Mary Austin, played by Lucy Boynton, who suspects that Freddie Mercury may in fact be gay. Eventually, he does fully embrace his lifestyle and begins a sexual relationship with his personal manager Paul Prenter while, at the same time, his outfits become increasingly outrageous and gender fluid. The movie does suffer at times from a lack of a cohesive narrative direction, punctuated by well-choreographed concert scenes in which the band’s greatest hits are played by the energetic Freddie Mercury. The whole film feels like it leads up to the best part of the film when the reunited band members come together to play a truly extraordinary concert at the internationally broadcast benefit concert series Live Aid in 1985 in front of a live audience of over 70,000 at Wembley Stadium in London and a television audience of over 1 billion. During this exhilarating final sequence, Malek transforms himself into the role of Freddie Mercury and sings and dances eerily similar to the real Freddie Mercury at the summit of his career. Overall, I found it to be a fascinating look into the origins of the world famous rock band Queen who helped to define music throughout the 1970s and 80s, and whose main asset was the outstanding performance given by the extremely talented actor Rami Malek.

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