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Bohemian Rhapsody


ou wonder how great a biography of Freddie Mercury and Queen could have been, if it wasn't forced to live under the restraints of a PG-13 rating. I had the supreme good fortune to work and become friends with the late Bob Mercer at EMI/Capitol Records. The legendary LA lunch time stories he would tell me of his time with Queen at EMI would not make it in a family friendly film. Bob had nothing but admiration for Freddie and the band.

Even with its PG-13 shackles, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is still a pretty good film, and really shines anytime the camera is on Rami Malek and his excellent performance as Freddie.

We see a very young Freddie, a shy, self conscious young immigrant to London, who finds his voice when he takes over as lead singer of a college band.

Gwilym Lee IS Brian May. He's a dead ringer for real life May and holds the screen very well alongside Malek's Freddie. Jospeh Mazzello (Jurassic Park) is John Deacon and Ben Hardy (XMen Apocalypse) rounds out the band as drummer Roger Taylor.

The portrayal of the band and their interactions are the heart of the movie and it gets those right.

The film shortchanges us a bit when it comes to the rise of the band, they seem to go from riding in a small truck across farmland to playing arenas overnight. But anytime Malek is boldly strutting across the stage in flawless recreations of Queen's best performance moments, the movie soars.

Freddie falls in love with his only wife and "true love" Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) but as the years pass and times change, Freddie's sexuality emerges and their relationship grows far more complicated.

Mercury and Queen's relationship grows through the familiar arc of what you'd expect in any story of a band, fact or fiction, but the best moments of the story are the true-life ones you don't expect.

The bravest choice the film makes is by concluding with a recreation of Queen's entire 20 minute set at the massive 1985 Live AId concert.

From the moment the camera swoops down from the sky, down into Wembley, with 100,000+ fans screaming and Queen taking the stage, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is pretty perfect.

I remember seeing that set live on TV in 1985, but the movie puts you in the front row and often on stage looking out. Like Bradley Cooper's "A Star Is Born" this year, its as close as two films have ever come of putting you in the shoes of the performer and its powerful.

Mercury knew he had AIDS and that this might be one of his last great world stages in life. The lyrics take on new meaning, the band's interactions run deeper and it's a great conclusion.

Many of the relationships in the film feel shortchanged and PG-13 softens much of the impact of the drug abuse and more adult angles of Mercury's life. I found myself wishing it had more of the grit of "A Star Is Born" this year.

With May and Taylor involved as producers on the film, one has to assume its a fairly accurate portrayal of the band's history. It's not always a flattering portrayal of Mercury, but by the film's conclusion its a moving tribute to Freddie finding his way back to his family, band and himself.

Malek is fantastic. I'll be surprised if he doesn't win best actor for his portrayal of Mercury.

Who wants to live forever? This huge box office hit, along with their stadium anthems and quirky operatic hits ensure that Queen will do just that.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY begs for a harder edge, but still hits all the right emotionally connected notes on a way to a solid B. Malek rocks.

(Look up in the rafters in the Live AId scenes for May & Taylor as aging stagehands and peek behind all the makeup for Mike Myers as EMI man Ray Foster.)

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