Live Aid 1984, “Queen” on stage with Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) belting out the classics with the crowd responding to his every word and action, seemingly the world at his feet.
The reality was somewhat different, Mercury was already dying of AIDS and the band had all but split up, due to creative differences and Mercury pursuing an erratic solo career.
The film tracks back to the origins of the band, when a buck toothed wannabe singer approaches the down on their luck group “Smile”, who have just lost their lead singer.
Freddie can sing alright and brings the flamboyance and diva behaviour that came to personify his career. As the band becomes more successful, Mercury takes the initial levels of excess and dials them up to 11. After a more conventional marriage, seemingly for love to Mary (Lucy Boynton), he explores his sexuality encouraged by Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) and dives deep into the gay and drug scene in the 1980’s.
Paul, acting as a “Yoko” like figure, steers Mercury further away from the band, fissures in the group’s mutual bond, start to show. The unenlightened times also fails to understand his chosen lifestyle, before a Damascus like moment for Mercury brings the music sharply back into focus.
Rhapsody was a troubled project with credited director Bryan Singer removed from the project under a shadow of sexual abuse and, according to reports, erratic behaviour on set. The film was finished by director Dexter Fletcher who remains un-credited.
The film does not appear to suffer from unevenness or a change of tone, so audiences would fail to notice the change.
A film about Mercury has to find the right actor to play the part, they would need to throw themselves into the role, there is no room for half measures in the performance. Rami Malek, taking over from original choice Sacha Baron Cohen , looks and acts the part, from every gesture to every strut. A misfit who finds a role to play and takes it to extremes.
Inevitably the remaining band members, Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) & John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) despite being well cast, get short changed as they stand in Mercury’s long shadow. However, the creation of the iconic songs is amusingly covered and an unrecognizable Mike Myers gets a brief but important scene.
The film has been criticized for whitewashing some of the excess but, for a main stream crowd pleasing film, this sketches enough of Freddie’s life, with the audience filling in the rest. A classic rock n roll story, massive success, creative differences, drugs, ego’s all the usual elements are in place.
Any film using the iconic music as a background can hardly fail and Malik’s performance is deserving of praise, whether the film deserves the slew of bestowed Oscars is debatable but as entertainment goes, this serves up a great night out.
A biopic covering the high and lows of the band named “Queen”, by no means perfect but hugely enjoyable and with a strong central performance, this is well worth a watch.
In fact, watch the trailer and be hooked….