Saturday, March 9, 2019

Stubs - Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers Directed by Bryan Singer Screenplay by Anthony McCarten. Produced by Graham King, Jim Beach Runtime: 134 minutes UK/USA Color Biography

I’m not sure if I’ve ever had this experience before. I can say that I liked the film but at the same time think it took too many liberties with the story. What was supposed to be a biography is really more fantasy than fact. I know that’s what this year’s Rocket Man promises, this isn’t what Bohemian Rhapsody was supposed to be about.

Yes, I did get a new appreciation for the subject of the film, Freddy Mercury fka Farrokh Bulsara. He managed to transform himself from a baggage handler at Heathrow into the lead singer of one of the most popular bands in the world, which is quite a feat. And, as we always suspected, he enjoyed the company of men and ultimately died from the curse of AIDS. It’s quite a story, however, so much of what we learn that fills in all the gaps borders on pure fiction.

Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen served as Executive Producers on the film.

The film takes his story and the story of the group Queen and twists it so that it is nearly unrecognizable as his or the group’s story. While I liked some of the group’s songs, I cannot say I was a die-hard fan but even I know that much of the film doesn’t ring true and the more I learn about the real story the more it feels like fiction, almost for the sake of fiction. And what is the biggest surprise to me is that members of the group, Brian May and Roger Taylor, people who would know the story, are Executive Producers on the film. They were apparently in on the ruse.

Rami Malek won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Freddy Mercury.

This is not to take away from Rami Malek’s portrayal of Mercury. He does a very good job in the role and is to be commended. (Since we’re publishing this after the Academy Awards, it should come as no surprise that he won for Best Actor.) Malek really does his best to become Mercury, with all his faults and talent. The singing is a mixture of Malek’s voice with Mercury’s and new recordings by Marc Martel, a Canadian Christian rock singer who sounds eerily similar to Mercury.

Lucy Boynton plays Mary Austin in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Lucy Boynton does a very good job as Mary Austin, Freddie’s one-time lover who gets pushed aside as Mercury explores his homosexuality, though he still loves her. Boynton, who is also Malek’s real-life love, should have a great future ahead of her based on her performance here.

There is a bit of brilliant stunt casting, Mike Myers as Ray Foster, a fabricated record executive who doesn’t believe in Mercury’s dream. Myers, you may recall, was Wayne Campbell in Wayne’s World (1992) and had that great scene in which the entire carload of friends bang their heads to Bohemian Rhapsody, something that gets referenced backhandedly during one of his scenes.

The more I read about the actual Mercury/Queen story, the more divergent from the truth the film seems to be. One of the big points, Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis, doesn’t come until after the group’s performance at the Live Aids concert in 1985, which serves as both a bookend and as a coda for the story. You might be left with the impression that the group came together for one last gasp but in reality, they were on tour prior to the concert and would continue to tour and record until Mercury’s death in 1991.

Despite its own issues with the real story, Bohemian Rhapsody is really a very good film and one that I would recommend not only to Queen fans but to most movie watchers. While you might not learn the real story of the group you will no doubt come away with a better understanding of Freddy Mercury thanks to Malek’s performance.

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