You may be expecting a story of the notorious Singer whose controversial behaviour and alleged sexual predilections and hedonistic bacchanalia have become the stuff of rumour and innuendo legend, but we’re not here to talk about the Director, we’re here to find out what the movie is like.
A rambunctious, mischievous and unexpectedly moving celebration of Queen, their music and, of course, their astonishing lead singer Freddie Mercury, “Bohemian Rhapsody” follows Freddie and the band from their very beginnings through their rise and gradual decline to their triumphant renaissance at Live Aid.
If you’re expecting a hard-hitting expose or a warts-and-all biographical confessional, this isn’t the film for you. Not that it’s a hagiography either; it doesn’t shy away from showing Mercury’s more troubled side, nor does it in any way attempt to erase his sexuality, it just doesn’t dwell on those aspects. But then it really doesn’t dwell on anything at all, strutting through the lifetime of the band like a greatest hits compilation that covers more than just the music. If anything, it’s expertly designed to reinforce and polish to a brilliant shine the existing public perception of Freddie and his bandmates.
It’s very much in keeping with the band’s music – inventive, playful and capable of moving from frivolous repartee to spinetingling emotion in just a few bars of melody. The whole thing is powered by a transcendent performance from Rami Malek, who gets so close to the real thing – or at least how we perceived the real Freddie – that at times, especially during the Live Aid sequence which closes the movie – he becomes Freddie Mercury. In terms of plot, it allows itself some dramatic licence, from the dark Iago-like machinations of Mercury’s personal manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) to a slight muddling of the real-life timeline to combine Mercury’s HIV diagnosis with the band’s Live Aid performance.
It’s not just Malek who nails his character, with Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello inhabiting Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon so completely you could almost believe you’re watching actual footage of the band. The rest of the supporting cast is superb too, with Lucy Boynton, as Freddie’s one-time fiancée and lifelong friend Mary Austin providing the stable emotional melody against which Freddie’s life soars and plummets like his vocal performances. Mike Myers makes a cameo appearance as EMI Executive Ray Foster, mainly it would seem to make an incredibly meta (and hilarious) joke about how unlikely “Bohemian Rhapsody” is to become a hit.
If you’re searching for a deeper truth behind the myth of the man and the band then you’re likely to be disappointed, but if, like me, you were looking for a celebration of everything you loved – and a reminder of just how good Queen were, then you’re in for a treat. I’m not prone to being especially choosy about formats but Mrs Craggus and I did choose to see this in IMAX not, for once, for the picture quality but for the sound and we were not disappointed. The songs explode into life on the big screen and by the time you get to that Live Aid moment, don’t be surprised if it moves you to tears. It did me.
Flamboyant, theatrical and driven by the sheer joy of making music, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a rock ‘n’ roll carnival, a celebration of every type of love and a musical trooping of the colour in recognition of the majesty of Queen.