BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018)

  • Date: 24/10/2018
  • Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander
  • Director: Bryan Singer

Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) is a baggage handler at the Heathrow Airport. He looks squarely at a colleague who refers to him as Paki (A derogatory term used to refer to Pakistanis) even as he tries his best to keep up with the toppling suitcases that are evidently too much for him to handle. He still records his disgust at the term. At home, Freddie has to deal with an authoritative father who wants his son to grow up as an ideal Parsi man. Purity in words, thoughts and action is what he wants for his son. “How has that worked out for you so far?”, asks Freddie as he dashes out to a pub to see the yet-not -christened “Queen” perform. The lead vocalist of the band walks out on his team members as he believes they are going nowhere and this is the chance that Freddie was waiting for. In the parking lot of that pub, starts a story that would go on to re-write history.

Bohemian Rhapsody documents the rise of Rami Malek and Queen from their humble beginnings to reaching a position of unparalleled stardom. The film successfully brings to the table the creation process and story behind some of their biggest hits including The Bohemian Rhapsody. If that was not enough, the film gives us a sneak peek into the life of Freddie Mercury as he metamorphs from a being a nobody into a star whose pull is at par with that of Michael Jackson. The film shows us his affair with the one true love of his life, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), his many rub-ons with bisexuality, his irate behavior for a plethora of reasons that tests his bond with his band mates and finally him contracting AIDS that put an end to his life at the age of 45.

Here is a film that is brimming with plot points, characters, colorful imagery and a truckload of heightened emotions and yet what captured my attention more than anything else was the performances. I heard a few songs of Queen before but I had no idea about who Freddie Mercury was or anything more about the band. Still, when I was sitting through the performance of Rami Malek I couldn’t help but feel that he was totally on point with the rendition of Freddie Mercury. I was so taken in by his act that I was practically reading between the lines of his expressions trying to dwell into what was going on in his mind at that point in time. After a while, I didn’t need him to speak out his dialogues. I could practically see through the emotions of the man. That’s how powerful and organic Rami Malek is here.

Mary, in a poignant scene that brings Freddie back to his senses, tells him that Queen is his family and that he needs true friends. Freddie looks on trying to say something to her but is unable to. His voice is chocked. As Mary leaves, he eloquently puts his feelings about himself to Paul (Allen Leech) who for so long has been sharing a parasitic relationship with him. This is the kind of scene that turns a good performance into a great one. I also couldn’t ignore the stage performances of Freddie that Rami Malek so beautifully recreates. When you watch the man in action, you actually take him to be someone who could extract just uproarious response from a crowd. Rami Malek should get an Oscar nod for his act this year. If he doesn’t, it would be a tragedy.

It’s not just Rami, every other cast member sink their teeth so deep into their characters that it becomes virtually impossible to differentiate them from the real people. The fact that I know little about Queen and their histrionics helped me enjoy their acts even more. People who are aware of the band’s exploit and history also tell me that the performances are almost indistinguishable from the real deal. Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello as the other band member are all consistently brilliant and one would find it extremely hard to take their eyes off them. Aidan “Littlefinger” Gillen is in his elements here. He is the same smooth-talking temperamental player that he was in Game of Thrones and thankfully that is exactly what his role demanded here and he is spot on with his act. Lucy Boynton is perfect as Mary. Not only is she pretty enough to justify firing the dreams of an artist and qualify to be his muse but also has enough weight behind her character to merit a mention and be actually important to the story.

The music and performances of the film make it worthy of an IMAX experience. I was continually taken over by the music and found myself going blank and just drifting away with the melody every now and then. The final performance which also makes up the climax is just brilliant. Bryan Singer hits a right balance between music and storytelling and doesn’t let either mar the affectivity of the other. The cinematography is just as worth a mention as any other aspect of this film. The film not only looks the part in terms of the period piece that it is, but it also brings enough creativity and grandeur to the visuals associated with that era which in turns makes it absolutely beautiful to look at. The editing complements the visuals, drama, pacing and the mood perfectly

Coming to my issues with this film, it cannot be denied that the film ticks every bullet that comes with the list entitled “essentials of making a rise-and-fall-of-a-star biography”. While the music of Queen was anything by generic, the film does end up falling for the same tropes and repetitions that are a part of every film that documents the rise of a star from rags to riches and then falls into oblivion before he is resurrected again and rises from the ashes like a phoenix. I also had an issue with the limited time that is spent between the Queen falling out with Freddie and him realizing his folly and the band reuniting. It just felt a tad bit rushed and didn’t leave the kind of effect that the rest of the twists and turns in the film did. I learned that two of the actual Queen members collaborated on the script and that in a way ensures that the film remained true to the actual story. Still, it would not have been a bad idea to try things may be a bit differently.

Bohemian Rhapsody is heavily dependent on its characters and their charm to progress the narrative and keep it interesting and effective. Thankfully, every performance brings a truckload of it to the table and the viewer is bound to be so immersed in their act that he/she would have very little time for anything else. The music is spellbinding. The cinematography is beautiful and the film has enough meat in terms of the story to keep you engrossed. Rami Malek may just strike Oscar gold for his turn as Freddie Mercury.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)          

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