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European films

Bohemian Rhapsody film review: Rami Malek anchors bombastic if sanitised Freddie Mercury biopic

  • Film concentrates on singer Mercury, but glosses over his darker desires
  • The story charts Queen’s early days up until Live Aid
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 10:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 11:21am

3/5 stars

Flamboyant, bombastic, yet sanitised and sketchy on detail, Bohemian Rhapsody plays it safe recounting the rise of rock legends Queen and the turbulent life of iconic frontman Freddie Mercury.

Rami Malek, sporting false teeth and an assortment of preposterous wigs, gives his all as Freddie, but the reluctance to sufficiently explore his hedonism, homosexuality and battle with Aids leaves the film as conflicted and schizophrenic as its protagonist.

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The film follows young Farrokh Bulsara (as Mercury was born) from his first meeting with bandmates Brian May and Roger Taylor (brilliantly played by Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy), through Queen’s meteoric rise during the 1970s, up to their legendary performance at Live Aid in 1985.

The tone is light, often laugh-out-loud funny, but skirts over Mercury’s darker desires. Unlike Bradley Cooper’s emotionally volatile A Star Is Born , Bohemian Rhapsody is determined to remain an upbeat crowd-pleaser throughout, despite what history tells us.

May and Taylor, both producers here, permit only glancing references to Freddie’s lover Jim Hutton (Aaron McKusker), instead focusing on his long-term relationship with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). Even his darkest moments, when he left the band and wrestled with substance abuse, are blamed more on duplicitous manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) than Freddie himself.

While director Bryan Singer’s unceremonious exit midway through production (to be replaced by the uncredited Dexter Fletcher) can only have exacerbated the film’s problems, this rose-tinted approach to Mercury’s life will no doubt infuriate Queen purists, or anyone hoping to learn more about the enigmatic showman.

Nevertheless, Bohemian Rhapsody remains a rousing tribute to one of the greatest rock bands of all time, with a climactic performance at Wembley Stadium that will most definitely rock you.

Bohemian Rhapsody opens on November 1

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