Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen Biopic Finally Takes Flight

Queen was a band that found outsize popularity despite, or more likely because of a flamboyant lead singer who denied his sexuality until the end of his life. Supported by a trio of accomplished bandmates, Freddie Mercury epitomized pomp in an era when rock and roll was only gingerly coming to grips with non-heterosexual stars. David Bowie and Elton John were the only major rock stars of the era who challenged the norm that rock stars must be beefy and straight.

The two remaining members of Queen (guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor) today soldier on with Adam Lambert in the lead singer role, buttressed by a trio of several other musicians to flesh out their sound on stage.

But “Bohemian Rhapsody” takes us back to the roots of the band’s origin story. May and Taylor apparently had a significant role in ensuring accuracy, but they may have burnished some of the story’s rough edges for optimal box office consumption.

Mercury is played by Rami (“Mr. Robot”) Malek, after several other actors (Sacha Baron Cohen!) were in the mix. Malek brings his heart and soul to the role, ably revealing the evolution of an awkward immigrant airport baggage handler coming to grips with his sexuality and growing command of the stage. Bryan Singer receives director credit, but it is unclear that he finished the project. The actors playing key roles (Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin, Mercury’s lifelong girlfriend, Gwilym Lee as an impressive May, Ben Hardy as Taylor, and Joe Mazzello as John Deacon, bassist) are well-deployed.

In one of the better inside jokes, Mike Myers plays the record executive who argues vehemently against the film’s title song as a lead single, arguing it will never be played by radio DJs. Of course, Myers was pivotal in keeping the song’s popularity alive when his character selected it for one for the funnier scenes in “Wayne’s World.”

The tour de force scene in “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the band’s 1985 appearance at Live Aid. Although the film truncates for dramatic effect the timeline of how the band came to play the worldwide gig, the filmmakers and cast deliver a clearcut case for Queen’s resurgent popularity then and now.

 

 


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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