Film Review: BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (directed by Bryan Singer)

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by Joan Alperin on October 23, 2018

in Film


Even before production began, this film has had controversy attached to it: Sacha Baron Cohen was originally attached to play Freddie Mercury, but dropped out when he realized the producers were aiming for a PG rating, skimming around Mercury’s hedonistic lifestyle. Since 2010, actor changes, story changes, and director changes have been part of the film’s journey. Bryan Singer, who receives the title of sole director (as per DGA rules that only one director can be credited), was replaced by Dexter Fletcher before the film was completed.

In the end, the story of the man with a vast craving for sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, and who had an abnormally debauched X-rated lifestyle, gets a PG-13 rating. But that’s not important for this biopic. British singer, songwriter and record producer Freddie Mercury — frontman of Queen, the band that fused rock with camp, opera, disco, pop, and the film title’s eponymous theatrical ballad — is one of the greatest rock stars of our time and this entertaining film shows you why. You get to see the creative process of Mercury and the band — how they came to write their songs, how they got their ideas — which helps us understand the group’s deep connection to each other. Anthony McCarten’s screenplay chronicles the meteoric rise of Queen starting in the 1970s up until their astounding performance at Live Aid at Wembley stadium in 1985 (that recreated scene alone is worth the price of admission).

Freddie could be very mean and hurtful at times, but underneath he was an extremely sensitive and fearful person who just wanted to be loved and accepted. This becomes especially clear in the scenes with his father, Bomi Bulsara (Ace Bhatti) and girlfriend Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), who was said to have inspired the 1975 song “Love of My Life”; Freddie had a deep relationship with her until his death from AIDS complications on November 2, 1991.

The greatest takeaway is Rami Malek, who is absolutely mind blowing as Mercury, offering a phenomenal performance that conveys Freddie’s complex emotionality and captures his physical nuances — both on and off stage. The wonderful cast includes Mike Meyers as Ray Foster, the EMI executive who let Queen get away; Gwilym Lee as lead guitarist Brian May; Ben Hardy as drummer Roger Taylor; and Joseph Mazzello as bass guitarist John Deacon.

If you weren’t a fan of Queen before you see this film, you will be after.

photos by Alex Bailey © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox

Bohemian Rhapsody
20th Century Fox
United States/United Kingdom | 134 minutes | rated PG-13
in wide release on October 24, 2018 in the UK; November 2, 2018 in the US

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