Monday, January 28, 2019


Rated:  PG-13

STARS: Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Malello, Lucy Boynton
DIRECTOR: Bryan Singer/ Dexter Fletcher
GENRE: Biopic

I have to admit I've never been a huge Queen fan. A lot of their stuff seemed to straddle the line between pop/rock and pretentiousness. Rock and opera should avoid each other like any two people named Trump and Pelosi. But there's no denying that "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Will Rock You," and a few of Queen's other songs are forever classics. 

I also knew the story of Freddie Mercury would be an intriguing one, and as a music connoisseur it was one I should familiarize myself with. So even if I didn't care for the movie, I'd at least come away a little more knowledgeable. As it turns out, I was lifted and uplifted by the film's driving energy.

What Bohemian Rhapsody may lack as far as compelling story telling is made up for by the pounding tsunami of sound as the Queen classics are sprinkled liberally throughout (the hits just keep on comin!)--and, of course, the character study of Freddie Mercury--their guiding star--that is at the heart of the film.   

We see a little bit of Freddie's humble beginnings. He was born into a poor family from India. There is the developing conflict with his straight-laced father, who urges him to embrace good thoughts, good words, good deeds. Some quick shots of Mercury working as an airport baggage handler, and then its on to the pivotal moment of his life--being at the right place at the right time when he encounters a band that had just lost its lead singer. He is able to sell himself enough for them to give him a shot. 

As this is a PG-13 rated film, I knew that Freddie's bisexuality would be treated more or less with kid gloves. Indeed, it's his heterosexuality which is emphasized in the beginning, the ongoing love of his life being Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). A few discreet male on male kisses later in the film, and the rest is pretty much left for us to fill in the blanks.

Rami Malek gives a virtuoso performance. He has all of Mercury's strutting moves down pat. There is one little thing. In the first half of the film he's got long hair, and his appearance and mannerisms make him more of a dead ringer for Mick Jagger than Freddie Mercury. (See if you notice it.) Later, when his locks are shorn and the mustache is added, he is an uncanny double for his subject.

What we come away with in the end is a portrait of a sensitive soul lost between two worlds, who never feels that he quite fits in anywhere. And of course the music. The climax is a faithful recreation of Queen's triumphant appearance at Live Aid in 1985, and it will knock your support stockings off. 

Sooo...unlike The Favourite...and unlike Vice...and maybe one or two others...Bohemian Rhapsody actually deserves it's Oscar nomination for Best Picture. 

Grade:  B +


...And Rami Malek deserves his Best Actor nomination. I was unfamiliar with this 37-year-old from Los Angeles, who won an Emmy in 2016 for his role in the hit TV series "Mister Robot." Wow. Was I ever impressed with Malek's portrayal of music superstar Freddy Mercury. His cavorting on and off stage was painfully real. So were his lonely moments. And I applaud the casting of his bandmates who looked amazing like the real ones – as seen during the end credits.

This movie left me feeling high. Almost as if I'd actually attended Bob Geldof's Live Aid concert. I clapped my hands and stamped my feet, sang along with "We Are The Champions." (And I wasn't the only one in the movie theater doing it, either.) It's so refreshing in this season of slow-moving (Roma), politically charged (Vice), comic bookish (Black Panther) films to be swept away by a musical blast from the past. I had no idea how many hits this legendary group had produced. And I have to give high marks to screenwriter Anthony McCarten who let us see how "Queen" (or any rock group, really) handled their rise to fame – from a tight knit family to four separate egos vying for creative control.

Did Malek do his own vocals? Because lip-synching is always on some level noticeable,Malek's voice is mixed with Canadian singer Marc Martel (a well known impersonator of Freddy Mercury) to create Mercury's incredible vocal range. So it is Malek, but not entirely. In all the concert sequences, it's pure unadulterated (newly-released) Queen.

I really enjoyed this one.

Grade: A