Killer Queen

Apologies for the temporary hiatus. I haven’t been able to see any new films in a while, but I finally got around to watching Bohemian Rhapsody last night, and I have quite a bit to say about it.

I heard a while ago that they were planning a Freddie Mercury biopic and thought it would make an interesting story. At the time Sacha Baron Cohen of Borat fame was slated to play the legend himself, but I think that wouldn’t have been as good. Rami Malek does a terrific job capturing the depth and flamboyance of Mercury in equal parts. Besides, Cohen is a comedian, and might not have had the acting chops to deal with the more serious moments.

This film is very good. As simple as that sounds, I think it sums things up perfectly. It isn’t a masterpiece, it has flaws, yet it certainly isn’t mediocre. For me it was overall a very fun time. The direction from Bryan Singer was fast paced and energetic, never letting moments get too long or slow. There are several montages in the film which use superb editing to convey the passage of time, although sometimes the transitions used felt almost too silly, like one of the over the top dance transitions from Austin Powers.

Otherwise, the direction was tight and well-paced, and most of the time Singer seems content to allow the story of Queen and Mercury to drive the film. This is probably the best approach to making a biopic, letting the style be dictated by the people the film is based on, rather than trying to stamp your own vision onto it and misrepresenting the people involved.

The acting is really special. Rami Malek manages to play Mercury with all his witty bravado and campy swagger, yet also conveys vulnerability and insecurity all through his eyes. After a while, it doesn’t matter that he isn’t very similar looking to Mercury; he becomes him. As for the rest of the band, they all do a smashing job too. Ben Hardy as a slightly brash Roger Taylor is funny and charismatic, even if he does look a little too young for the second half of the film set ten years later. Gwilym Lee is a dead ringer for Brian May, in fact he fits the role so well, I’m not sure they didn’t actually just clone May and use him instead. His voice, cadence and mannerisms match the guitarist to the tee. Finally, Joseph Mazzello plays John Deacon, a more subdued and down to earth personality. He portrays him as very much the groups voice of reason and the first to try and defuse the many arguments the band inevitably have, although he gets some very funny lines as well.

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So, all four of the actors playing the members of the band absolutely nail their performances. For me, that was already all I could have asked for, but the rest of the cast deliver top notch acting as well. Lucy Boyton played Mercury’s fiancé turned close friend Mary with much heart and a good deal of sadness that was very moving. Allen Leech did a fantastic job making Paul Prenter, a somewhat maligned figure in the bands history, seem a more three dimensional and nuanced character, even with some of the terrible things he did. Mike Myers has a pretty funny cameo as a music producer. In summary, none of the cast let the film down.

Story wise, I’m admittedly not an expert on the history of Queen. I’ve seen a documentary on the life of Freddie Mercury, but that’s about it. As far as I can tell, the film takes a few liberties with the timeline of when certain things happened, and some events that took longer are condensed into single scenes in order to fit the run-time. For the most part though, it feels faithful to the events that happened and with two of the original band members, Brian May and Roger Taylor, producing the film it can’t have gone too wrong. It is a very engaging story, covering Mercury joining the band when they were only playing at pubs, all the way to their famous performance at Live Aid. It would have been hard to make the story of Queen boring even if they tried, but the script could’ve still failed if they focused too much on certain parts to the exclusion of others.

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I feel that writers Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan have managed to give a broad stroke cover of most of the important aspects of Freddie Mercury, although I would’ve liked a little more screen time for the other band members. I have heard criticism that this film glosses over Mercury’s homosexual relationships and focuses too much on his relationship with Mary. However, as I hadn’t even known that Mary existed before watching it, I felt it was important to include her. She was an integral part of his life, and I personally didn’t feel that they glossed over anything in Mercury’s life. Indeed, some of the more gripping scenes in the film are about him coming to terms with his sexuality and his identity. If I had any criticism of my own it would be that I could’ve done with a scene or two covering at least part of his childhood, to get a fuller picture of his life.

I would review the music, but to be fair, it is all Queen’s songs, and so they are pretty much all fantastic. The placement of the songs over the top of key moments was mostly appropriate, although it would’ve been good for a few more scenes with silence to let the characters breathe. The recreation of Live Aid does go on a little too long as well in my opinion, going through full versions of several of Queen’s line-up, which drags, especially when they keep cutting back to people watching it on TV. But other than the that the music choice is excellent, and the only complaints I have are really just glorified nit-picks. This film is a really good watch, especially for those with a keen interest in rock history. It gives a very unfiltered and honest portrayal of the life of Queen and especially Mercury, and it is funny, exciting, and at times, heart wrenching. It’s a film I came away feeling very affected by, and if you see it, you might just feel the same way.

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