Directed by: Bryan Singer – Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech, Mike Myers
To say this film has had a tumultuous journey to the screen is an understatement.
Between losing its original star (Sasha Baron Cohen) and losing its director (Singer was fired from the film and replaced by Dexter Fletcher, but is still credited due to DGA guidelines) to storyline issues, it’s a wonder that this has finally made it to the big-screen.
But it is here, and has been hugely hyped for the past several months, with the studio no doubt hoping that the affection still held for Freddie Mercury will translate into ticket sales. And to be fair, his life-story is the stuff of high drama, and should have made for an outstanding picture. Unfortunately, it never quite reaches its full potential, and what we get instead is an extremely sanitised, and edited, version of the events that helped shape the iconic frontman into the legend we all know.
The task of bringing Freddie back to life on the big-screen has fallen to Mr Robot star, Rami Malek, and it has to be said that he does an amazing job. His prosthetic teeth are somewhat ill-advised, and at times are a bit distracting, but his performance is fabulous.
There are moments – particularly during the band’s live performances, that you almost forget you’re not watching Freddie. Unfortunately, in the scenes where he is not performing, we aren’t really given much insight into what made him tick. There’s a lot of arguing among the bandmates, some flashes of diva-like drama, when a record company executive (in an in-joke played by none other than Mike Myers) is refusing to release Bohemian Rhapsody, a lot of chat about their songs, and, of course, a look at his relationship with Mary Austin – Freddie’s soulmate, and the main benefactor of his estate when he passed away.
We see brief flashes of racism, and some grappling with his sexuality, but nothing that really explains how he developed into the cock-sure confident character he was known as. From the outset, the Freddie on-screen is supremely confident in his abilities, and yet we never discover why.
Also the tales of debauchery and hedonism from Queen’s heyday are well-documented, but producers, Brian May and Roger Taylor, would clearly rather forget that aspect of their background, and instead of wild parties, we get a group who are heading home to their wives and children, leaving a lonely Freddie seeking solace wherever he can find it.
The movie culminates with a recreation of the band’s iconic Live Aid performance in 1985, and this is truly spectacular. However, throughout the film, there are many missed opportunities to delve deeper into the psyche of the tragic showman.
As a Queen fan, I did enjoy this, despite the historical inaccuracies and dramatic licence. But I really felt they could have pushed it further. It is rated 12PG, so this may explain the more family-friendly version of certain events, but aiming for a more grown-up rating would have made a huge difference to this film.
Of course, the songs are brilliant. Every single one is an iconic anthem, and you will find yourself tapping your feet along to them. For many people, this will be enough. However, as a fan, I felt I knew no more about Queen or Freddie leaving the cinema than I did entering it, which is normally the benchmark for a good biopic.
Malek should definitely garner some awards buzz for his role, but this is far from the definitive Freddie Mercury story. That tale is still waiting to be told.
In Cinemas Now! See trailer below: