Cert 12A Stars 5
In a year when musicals have ruled cinema, this supersonic biopic of Freddie Mercury allows rock band Queen to claim their rightful crown as the champions of the box office.
Sympathetic, moving, funny and filled with some of the greatest rock anthems ever recorded, at a rare lick we see Freddie’s rise from airport luggage handler to global superstar.
As the band’s outrageous and supremely gifted vocalist, he struggles to break free of his traditional family, beginning the film by chasing what he wants and ending up with what he needs.
Powered by his finding somebody to love, 1985’s famous Wembley charity gig, Live Aid, becomes a redemptive, poignant and climactic celebration.
Though the film steers away from showing anything graphic, Freddie’s rockstar party life leads to his being diagnosed with AIDS, the disease which would kill him at 45 years old.
Rami Malek is tremendous as Freddie, and who cares if the American-Egyptian doesn’t particularly look like the Parsi Indian Brit, he absolutely captures the essence of the man as we’d like to remember him, dynamic, creative, outrageous and a world class crowd-pleasing frontman.
With the actors miming to the bands actual recordings, Queen’s chart-topping and lengthy back catalogue supercharges the script, and it’s worth the ticket price to hear the soundtrack, which rockets through their best-selling greatest hits album.
The majestic title track is the first song I can remember hearing that wasn’t a church hymn, and the scenes of its recording imbue the song with deeply personal meaning, a trick used repeatedly on songs such as, Love of My Life.
Band members, Brian May and Roger Taylor are executive-producers, and you might expect more of a contribution from their characters. Efforts are made to emphasise their contribution to the group, but even in their own band they were always the supporting act.
It’s a kind of magic this films is as great as it is, after the original director, Bryan Singer, was sacked with two weeks of filming to go. For the sake of brevity some of the dialogue is very direct, but it’s not afraid to ask the important questions, such as ‘how many Galileo’s do we need?’.
For his Tom Hanks-starring 1994 drama, Philadelphia, director Jonathan Demme persuaded Bruce Springsteen to contribute a title track. Demme argued the Boss’ song would encourage people who otherwise might be disinclined, to go see a film about a gay man who dies of AIDS.
Similarly the music of rock royalty Queen will draw in an audience to this determinedly mainstream Hollywood biopic where they’ll watch a drama which celebrates the life of a much-loved performer who dies from AIDS.
And though this isn’t a ‘message’ film, if it kickstarts a discussion among parents and young teens of sexual health then that can only be a good thing.
Also in this film is a scene featuring a passionate, tender snog between two men, conducted without shame or fear. How many other broad-appeal saturation release Hollywood films will be showing that this year, next year or the year after?
It’s unlikely the upcoming Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will feature Jude Law’s young wizard Dumbledore snogging Johnny Depp’s titular villain. The Star Wars, Marvel and Fast Furious franchises fail repeatedly to do anything more than pay lip service to gay representation at best, and the decision to cut a gay kiss from Star Trek Beyond tells us all we need to know about Hollywood timidity.
I loved last year’s gay drama, God’s Own Country as much as anyone else who saw it, but far more people will see Bohemian Rhapsody, and I suspect many will be people who wouldn’t normally consider to pay to watch a gay love story.
Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t a warts and all expose of the life of Freddie Mercury, it’s the unapologetically enjoyable, accessible, music-laden celebration it sets out to be. It promises a good time and it delivers.
And for once don’t worry about the size of the cinema screen, see this at the venue with the biggest sound system. And this will rock you.