Read: Bohemian Rhapsody shows the music is bigger than the man

There’s always a problem with biopic films because it’s impossible to truly balance the image of a hero in the public mind and the supposed truth behind the story. Filmmaking is both art and science – a melding of technique, technology and story in which we, the audience have to suspend belief and accept fiction we are being sold.

In such a process, the truth is often sacrificed or manipulated because filmmakers have a particular narrative they want to deliver or because they wish to make the mundane seem dramatic.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a case in point. The film attempts to shed light on the formation of rock band Queen, their rise to fame, and with their incredible performance at the Live Aid concert in 1985.

How on earth do you cram 15 years of history into two hours and do justice to four members of the band?  Well, the answer is, you do it at a cracking pace, concentrate (mostly) on the lead singer and showcase specific moments that give snapshots of that decade and a half.

For the most part, the film gets it right, mostly because they have picked the perfect leading man.

Rami Malek is quite astonishing in his portrayal of Freddie Mercury. In his first scene, he almost seems a parody of the late singer, with overly large teeth and a slightly self-conscious air. Very quickly, however, Malek simply is Freddie Mercury. His expressions and mannerisms match the singer perfectly. This is a performance that deserves to be recognised. Freddie Mercury had huge charisma and presence and Malek manages to deliver that, particularly in the parts of the film where he is performing on stage. The other cast members do equally well and manage to evoke their namesakes effectively.

There are many moments where this film excelled. Queen’s set at the Live Aid concert at the end of the film is quite breathtaking and realistic. A montage scene of the band recording the song Bohemian Rhapsody in their studio was both inspired and hilarious. And Mercury receiving his AIDS diagnosis to the sound of their song Who Wants to Live Forever is haunting.

Along with Malek’s performance, the other star of the show is Queen’s music. Whatever you might think of the film, the songs are exquisite and a reminder of the talent and power of a group of men who’s artistry touched the world.

There have been very mixed reviews of Bohemian Rhapsody and some pointed criticism, notably that the film glossed over Mercury’s sexuality and about his death from AIDS. I disagree.

Remember this film is called Bohemian Rhapsody, not The Freddy Mercury Story. It is about the band and a specific period of time. While there is a focus on Mercury, the film is about much more than just him. In my opinion, the filmmakers have gotten the balance between Mercury’s private life and the story of the band just right. The emotional turmoil he had in his life was handled in an artistic and stylish way that works.

There are things that are not quite right with this film, however. Mercury wasn’t diagnosed with AIDS until some years after the film’s timeline ended. This is annoying to those of us who like historical accuracy, but it is commonplace in filmmaking and something we should perhaps overlook as ‘dramatic licence’.

My other criticism is that the other band members come across as a little too perfect. All three of them are portrayed as being reasonable, calm and dedicated. They are shown as ‘having to put up with’ Mercury’s temperamental tantrums, eccentricities and tardiness. They are annoyed by him and force him out at one point, but it is Mercury who is shown as being the problem child while the rest of them are saint-like. Somehow that just doesn’t seem credible. 

Bohemian Rhapsody is a film that gives a compelling look at a group of men and their artistry – ultimately it is the music that is the defining point of this film. Despite the drama, despite the struggles of their lead singer, the music was bigger than any of them. It is Queen’s music and Mercury’s voice that have left an indelible mark on the world.

In cinemas 1st November 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody 

134 Minutes

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

Directed by: Bryan Singer

https://youtu.be/9Y7X6le5qmE

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