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‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ review: Rami Malek becomes Freddie Mercury

No one could have portrayed Freddie Mercury better than Rami. When on stage, Malek — who looks, walks and dances almost like Mercury — makes you believe that he’s Mercury.

Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Ben Hardy, Mike Myers, Joseph Mazello, Gwilym Lee, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander

Rating: 3.5/5

Britain’s Freddie Mercury was one of the legendary performers in the 70s-80s the music world had ever seen. Freddie with Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon as band members of Queen created some of the top chart-busters Rock Music has ever known.

Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the journey of Freddie Mercury (played by Rami Malek), the lead singer of the popular English rock band Queen, in his rise to stardom. The iconic star, named Farrokh Bulsara at birth, was an Indian Parsi and an immigrant from Zanzibar who spent his adult life in England. However, his life was quite lonely, as he struggled with his identity, homophobia and eventually lived his final days fighting AIDS.

What’s good?

Bohemian Rhapsody, the name itself seems to carry a lot of weight — a dash of multiple hues, a pinch of a crazy pitch, a spoonful of poetry, served with a dollop of opera…

Needless to say, the film’s best moments are undoubtedly when the band gets down to create music. The fights between the musicians, their struggle, their creativity, their experiment with music and production of the songs ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Another one bites the dust’ — the film touches upon it all.

Who can keep from tapping his/her foot when “You got mud on your face/ You big disgrace/ Kickin’ your can all over the place/ We will we will rock you” plays out loud? It’s those powerful overwhelming minutes in the film which remind you the mass appeal Queen had, all over again.

Rami Malek’s acting is impeccable, and it seems that the 37-year-old will soon get busy as more and more scripts start pouring in. No one could have portrayed Freddie Mercury better than Rami. When on stage, Malek — who looks, walks and dances almost like Mercury — makes you believe that he’s Mercury.

There are several moments in the film that make you want to get into the screen to hug and console him in times of distress. His facial expressions — the little squints of uncertainty, wide-eyed gape of disbelief, gulping down rejection — it all builds up the tempo and fills Mercury’s character with so much humaneness.

Mary, Freddie’s girlfriend played by Lucy Boynton, adds on that much-needed touch of reality and uplifts the character of the protagonist. Scenes, where the lovers separate, or discuss life addressing the absence of one another, are heart-wrenching. (When Mary accepts the fact that Freddie is gay and says, “The worst part is, it’s not even your fault” I could feel that pang of hurt, as though my heart was just stabbed with the coldest knife ever, and envisioned all the sad moments when life called for parting ways…)

The bits of what Bryan Singer showed of Freddie’s success, mistakes, failure, and his experience of rejection — all play out in the form of catharsis towards the end of the film. The Live Aid concert scene will give you goosebumps as the screen fills up with a bird’s-eye view shot over Wembley Stadium, capturing a smooth forward run over the heads of a million audience on the way to the stage.

The script is not extraordinary like one might expect, but it has its moments. Ex: when Mary reminds the rock star how he is “burning the candle at both ends” and in response he says that’s why “the glow is so divine.”

The film uses Queen’s original tracks, but the outstanding lip-sync along with Rami’s performance makes one believe that the songs are sung by Rami Malek.

What’s not…

Although one of the best entertaining films of 2018, it lacks that in-depth character analysis which one would expect from a biographical film. Director Bryan Singer created a beautiful and entertaining film for his audience, but somewhere down the line, those who know about Mercury will be left disappointed with the movie’s fast pace, which does not disclose any new information about the late performer’s personal life. Although brilliantly played out by Rami, Freddie’s character at certain points seem incomplete.

Singer has also reduced many important characters to single dimensions, as if “nothing really matters.” The film, as well, appears to be a little sugar-coated as the director played safe avoiding any controversy. The smooth ride of Queen’s rise from student gigs to international sold-out stadium performances as portrayed in the film seems very unreal.

Freddie Mercury with his partner Jim Hutton

Your take-home

Overall, if you are a film lover, this is not the film you’d want to miss. Filled with entertainment, this musical tribute to one of the insanely gifted singers of the Rock ‘n Roll genre, Bohemian Rhapsody did make my day. This is the kind of film that leaves an aftertaste…

The original members of the band ‘Queen’
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Lahari Basu

Lahari Basu is a Senior Sub-editor for DBPOST and is based in Delhi. Contact this editor at lahari.basu@dbcorp.in.