Film review: “Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

 

Difficult to make what amounts to a docudrama about a subject so very much larger than life. Reviews have reflected this fact for the production, but lead player Rami Malik (from Mr. Robot on cable) is getting serious Oscar buzz, and deservedly so. He has Freddy’s moves nailed.

The actual production is getting OK reviews, especially from the Oracle, Rotten Tomatoes. Not bad or even mediocre but “good”. Maybe damned by faint praise. The production is clearly a celebration of the inimitable music of Queen, trying hard to avoid the stigma of just another rocker, felled by various forms of tragic disease.

I’m pretty familiar with the history, having read several books on the subject, and I can assure you that the film does a pretty good job of relating it. But the film belongs to Malik who really brings Freddy to life; the rest of the cast in various supporting roles. There are a lot of flaws in the history that the film glosses over, but like “Catch-22” (1970) it’s far too complex to squeeze into a two-hour movie.

One of the centerpieces of the film is Live Aid, constructed by Bob Geldolf of the Irish group the Boomtown Rats, said at the time to be the largest group of paying customers to a rock concert in history. ~ 100,000. This concert said to be televised to 40% of the world’s population, estimated incoming revenue of eventually 150 million Pounds. Everyone who’s anyone in Rock was there but also some noteable absences (Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel…..)

Rami Malek watched Liza Minelli’s performance in “Cabaret” (1972) as inspiration for Freddy’s moves but a British choreographer actually coached him for many hours. All the music in the film was backing tracks except “Another one bites the dust” is which the movie band actually played their own instruments and sang. Malik’s voice was mixed with the real Freddy and Canadian singer Marc Mertel.

Through his entire life, Freddy proclaimed Mary Austin as the “love of his life” even after she married elsewhere and had a child by another man. She stayed close to him for his entire life. When Freddy died in 1991, he is said to have bequeathed her half his entire fortune. She is said to live in his home in London today.

As of 2005, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Queen albums have spent a total of twenty-six years on the UK Album Charts, more time than any other musical act. In 2006, Queen’s “greatest Hits” album was the all-time best-selling album in UK Chart history, more copies than its nearest competitor, the Beatles’ “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”  album. Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the band is the only group in which every member has composed more than one chart-topping single, and all four members were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003

Bassest John Decacon left queen immediately after Freddy’s death and never played with the band again. He remained friends with all. Best of my recollection, Brian May is named number 5 by Rolling Stone of the top ten guitarists in the world. Queen went on to play with two lead singers, Paul Rodgers of “Bad Company” for a while and finally ending up in the past few years with Adam Lambert of “American Idol”. They’re considered a nostalgia band now.

The film portrays several songs from Live Aid in 1985, but there is a glaring omission. They missed Freddy singing “Love of my life”, he originally wrote for Mary Austin.  Brian May appears on stage sitting in a chair playing an acoustic guitar and Freddy sings with nothing else but that simple accompaniment. At some point, he finishes a stanza, then stops, looks out into the vast audience and quietly proclaim: “I still love you”, then turns and walks off the stage. The audience want completely nuts.

Watch for the real Freddy and the real band performing during the closing credits.

I think the production is stellar, well photographed and well edited. There are glosses and mistakes in the history, but that’s OK. It isn’t a “real” documentary. The real star of this film is Rami Malek who I think absolutely nailed Freddy as much as is humanly possible.

Recommended by me.

I give it four of five overbites.

 

 

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