FILM UNFILTERED - Malek shines as Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

FILM UNFILTERED - Malek shines as Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’


Legendary singer Freddie Mercury who was the front man of rock band Queen led a life that was secretive to most of the general public, but long fodder for the British tabloids. In the new film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” his rise and that of the band is charted from the early 70s onward culminating in the world-wide event, Live Aid in 1985.

Mercury was the son of Pakistani immigrant parents in London and felt himself to be an outcast. He was born with a few extra teeth and had a very severe overbite that while he was comfortable with it, others viewed as awkward.

Mercury is played by Rami Malek and his portrayal is superb. He is the absolute living embodiment of the quirky and flamboyant crooner. When he and the band first start out, he is ramrod confident the band is going to be superstars.

He meets and marries Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), though he struggles with his own sexuality throughout their relationship. Mercury declares to her in the film he thinks he is bisexual, but she affirms for him that he is gay. The film leans heavily on his personal life, which is not a surprise, given that a star of his magnitude was zealously pursued. These were the late 70s and early 80s when newspapers and glossy magazines were everywhere, so there’s no shortage of cameras and flashbulbs.

The excesses, lavish, and over-the-top rock ’n’ roll lifestyle is on full display here. Mercury becomes involved with one of his “handlers” Paul (Allen Leech) who also often arranges dalliances for Freddie while on tour. As the band grows in popularity, so do their egos and the unending gaggle of people clinging onto them or attempting to cash in.

There’s a point midway through where Rami Malek begins to look exactly like Sebastian Stan’s “Jeff Gillooly” from “I, Tonya” and I found it hard from there on to see Freddie. This isn’t to take away from Malek’s portrayal, which is astounding, it was just an odd similarity.

While the film has a solid autobiographical tone, some sequences, seem really flat and canned. Especially some of the studio bits that felt like glossy tales from VH1’s “Behind the Music.” I did not feel as though this was as effective as Oliver Stone’s “The Doors” from 1991. This felt very paint-by-the-numbers ordinary, with the exception of the highly climatic ending in Wembley Stadium.

The film is credited as directed by Bryan Singer (though he was fired by Fox before finishing) who did the very popular “X-Men” films and “The Usual Suspects.” He seems to have gone a little overboard here. After the band’s single “Bohemian Rhapsody” is released, quotes of reviews are annoyingly splashed across the screen and then there’s another lazy montage where city names whiz across in blinding neon to emphasize their long tour. There were parts that felt cheap and amateurish.

One of my harshest complaints is the casting of Mike Myers as EMI exec Ray Foster, who declares in the film that “no teenagers are going to be banging their heads to this song” after listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody” when first played for him. Myers, famously played Wayne in 1992’s “Wayne’s World” where he and pal Garth lip sync and rock out to that song as they’re driving.

Rated PG13.

Rami Malek stars as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”