Bohemian Rhapsody: a review
Is this the real life, is this just fantasy?
Yes, it is hard to believe, but we have a film about Queen – and what a film it is. Following the story of the legendary rock band, it starts with its formation in the early 70s as Roger Taylor and Brian May’s band, ‘Smile’, take on a new singer – Freddie Bulsara.
It begins with them playing in small student union gigs and ends with their legendary performance at Live Aid in 1985 in front of a worldwide audience. The film shows the highs and the lows, with great care taken in getting the detail right, from the creation of hits like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ to the behind the scenes with managers and record labels.
One aspect of the film that should be highly commended is the casting, which is perfect.
Gwilym Lee was extremely convincing as Brian May: a lot of the time I thought it was genuinely him. Rami Malek is great as Freddie Mercury and really fits the part, he gets the act – mannerisms, voice and looks – absolutely right. It’s hard to imagine the other casting choices for Freddie (Sacha Baron Cohen and Ben Whishaw) ever being considered.
Joseph Mazzello is also good as the bass player, John Deacon. I was pleasantly surprised that he got some important scenes as Deacon is usually the member people forget. If you have the strange feeling you’ve seen him before, it may be because he played Tim in the original Jurassic Park film.
The only one that I could not buy into was Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, though he still plays the part well.
The supporting cast is good: a very well-disguised Mike Myers plays Ray Foster, head of Queen’s record label, EMI. I liked the way he clashed with the band and, retrospectively, made some bad decisions. In one particular line of dialogue, Foster claims ‘no one will be head-bopping in their car to Bohemian Rhapsody’ – a knowing reference to a famous car scene (starring Myers) in Wayne’s World.
Tom Hollander gave a strong performance as Jim ‘Miami’ Beach, their lawyer and manager. I like the way as it the film goes on he gradually gets more into the band and he literally turns them up to the max for Live Aid.
I do think the film focuses on Freddie a bit too much, but this is hard not to do with such an iconic, complex figure. His story is very sad, both as a foreigner in Britain, when immigration was a hot topic, and for being bisexual when it was seen as wrong.
It seemed all he wanted was a good friend but many people took advantage of him, such as Paul Prenter, played by Allen Leech. Prenter seems to be the film’s antagonist, acting very deceptively and manipulatively, trying to split up the band and have full control over Freddie.
Dermot Murphy also nailed Bob Geldof and deserves a special mention: it was very funny to see him getting angry on TV at Live Aid and shouting ‘give us your money!’.
Of course, the soundtrack is awesome and the actors do a good job of lip-syncing the original songs. I was worried that they would try and sing: they may be good but – as the film states – it’s just not possible to recreate Freddie’s voice. Everyone’s favourites are here: Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen, Another One Bites The Dust, We Will Rock You, Radio Gaga and more!
Despite what the ‘critics’ say at Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, this is possibly the best film I have seen this year. They have given it mixed reviews – just as the band received themselves when they released much of their best work – but the people love it!
Yes, it’s not totally accurate. Some things are overplayed or missed out or changed but it is, after all, a film, rather than an in-depth documentary. If Brian May and Roger Taylor are satisfied with it then it’s good enough for me.
If you want the full, factual Queen story, watch a documentary (there are many good ones); if you want to enjoy the experience of the band in one entertaining, feature-length film, this is for you.