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Bohemian Rhapsody - Film Review

 
What makes a good rock biopic? Is it slavishly accurate chronology and detail? Is it a no holds barred dishing of the dirt? If so then "Bohemian Rhapsody" fails on both counts.

I would suggest that THE one thing a good rock biopic needs is that you believe that you are watching the character(s) depicted, not an impersonation. In the case of Rami Malik's performance as Freddie Mercury, success of the highest order was achieved. 

Despite this being billed as a Queen biopic, it really is a film about Freddie. Whilst the film does make the clearly valid point that Freddie needed the rest of Queen as much as they needed him, from a story point of view, much as he was on stage, Freddie is a charisma tsunami sweeping all before him.

Malik superbly portrays the private vulnerability as well as the strutting public confidence. The rest of the band play their roles well, with Gwilym Lee in particular capturing the mannerisms and voice of Brian May convincingly.

There are problems though, particularly if you are familiar with the band's discography. "Fat Bottomed Girls" is shown being performed on their first, and apparently headlining, tour of the US. This despite that first American tour occurring in 1974 to support Mott The Hoople and the song not appearing until 1978's "Jazz". 


Most egregious is the portrayal of the band's 'break up' and subsequent reformation for Live Aid. Given that the band headlined Rock in Rio, (which is also shown happening in the mid '70's, not 1985), in January of the same year as the charity mega-gig, the portrayal of them needing to learn to play together again is laughable. I know it is true that Queen approached their preparation for Live Aid more seriously than some other acts, (cough, Led Zeppelin, cough), but it seems that quite a few liberties have been taken with the narrative. 

If you didn't know better you'd think that Live Aid marked the end of the band, whereas actually the reaction to their performance spurred them on. I understand the need for dramatic framing and I feel that the less you know of the band's history the less these, and other, inaccuracies will bother you.

Enough with the negatives. As I mention above, the main performance of Rami Malik holds everything together. There is much to enjoy here, and as I said to Mrs PowderfingerSpeaks when we saw the trailer before " A Star Is Born", (review here), 'it doesn't matter whether "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a great film, it'll have the best soundtrack of the year'.

These songs are just too good to keep down. There is a reason Queen's "Greatest Hits" is the best selling album in UK history . Whilst there are maybe too many, as noted critic Mark Kermode calls them, "chubby, hmmm...." moments,(this refers to the moment in the "Karen Carpenter Story" when someone describes Karen as 'chubby' which is then seen to be the root of all her subsequent struggles), when it comes to those greatest hits taking shape, the sheer joy of hearing these songs again takes you along for the ride.

The undoubted highlight, as well as the climax of the film, is the full Live Aid performance. Thanks to modern technology we are able to experience a level of fidelity and immersion that just wasn't possible in 1985. A fitting tribute to a great band and the greatest front man in rock music.

In summary, much like Queen themselves, I suspect this film will be loved far more by the public than the critics and a great central performance elevates a mixed film to one that is highly enjoyable.
If you haven't seen it, do so, as unless you cannot stand the music of Queen you will enjoy the film.
 

More on why I think Freddie Mercury is rock's greatest front man here.

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