‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was Destined to Celebrate Queen

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Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – The lyric “And now it’s ‘Easy Come/Easy Go/Little High/Little low” from the song/movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” might just be the best description of this rock band biopic. The high is the celebration of the band Queen and its unforgettable lead singer Freddie Mercury, and it is enough to get through the story “lows.”

The gossip surrounding the film might be a better film story than the film itself. It was directed by Bryan Singer (“X-men” films) and although he called it a passion project, his breakdown on the set caused him to be fired towards the end, and stripped of his producer tag. That may explain the sketchy and soft “band story” that dominates the film, and some of the rock movie clichés that permeate at strange times… the concert montage could have been from the 1950s. But, Rami Malek (“Mr Robot”) is career-defining as Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen and ultimate tragic rock god (Mercury passed away from AIDS in 1991), plus the film has the “Killer Queen” music and celebration of a dominate force in the pop/rock of the 1970s and ‘80s. Get on this Mystery Trip.

In the early 1970s in post-hippie London, an outsider 24-year-old immigrant from Zanzibar named Farrokh Busara met a band named “Smile.” They re-emerged with Busara as a new lead singer, renamed Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), and a new band name Queen… with guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee), drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and bassist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello).

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Rami Malek is Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

Armed with a knack for writing and performing catchy pop/rock music, the band cut a swath through the 1970s with their hit songs, which included their epic six minute opera, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which EMI record exec Ray Foster (Mike Myers) called “unplayable” for the radio of the time. The ups and the downs followed, culminating in their greatest show ever, the 1985 Live Aid performance.

The film recreates the entirety of the Live Aid set, and the power of the band and Mercury shines brilliantly in that sequence. Rising star Rami Malek is simply a revelation as Freddie, and manages to capture a bit of the larceny and vulnerability of his immigrant’s outsider status and closeted-gay-man-in-the-wrong-era identity. Also remarkable are the actors portraying the rest of the band, it’s as if Queen was portraying themselves in their own story.

The story – band rises, then falls, then rises again – has been seen before, and that is the disappointment, although to me it was a minor one. Queen is a band that needs to be celebrated, and the film strives to “keep themselves alive.” The concert moments are the best, and the glimpse into the studio during the formulation of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was also nice, but that also had a behind-the-music that didn’t have the same electricity as the concert moments.

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Queen Rehearses for Live Aid in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

There has been some general early criticism regarding the “PG-13” status of the film… it leaves out the darker elements of Freddie’s plunge into disease and how is affected the state of Queen… but that’s really for a another movie, that might yet be made. This was more about the rising fortunes of the AM/FM era of radio risk takers and the rock heroes of a long time passing, which for this old timer was pure bliss until it wasn’t. But all things must pass.

“Any way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me” came out of the tinny speakers of 1975 with a hurricane force, and that is what Freddie Mercury and Queen was, a hurricane of magic. “Bohemian Rhapsody” captures the force if only for a moment, as a reminder of what really mattered. To me, back then, at least.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” opens everywhere on November 2nd. Featuring Rami Malek, Mike Myers, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello and Tom Hollander. Screenplay written by Anthony McCarten. Directed by Bryan Singer. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Editor and Film Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2018 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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