A regal biopic for the other British Queen…
On Queen, the leading singer, the music, the band and much, much more in a foot stomping, music filled biopic.
Bohemian Rhapsody | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX, 20th Century Fox
For my next post, I just had to revisit a biopic that I recently saw at the cinema. The subjects of Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) are a British band, Queen. For the uninformed, Queen used to be led by singer, Freddie Mercury with Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon giving their added support. This as lead guitarist, drummer and bassist respectively. Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of Queen back in the 70s and 80s. With all this changing after this particular film experience.
Of course – being a bit of a soap fan back in the day – I knew that Brian May was involved with EastEnders (1985-) Angie Watts aka Anita Dobson (who was also on Play Away (1971-84) and that Roger Taylor (wasn’t the same drummer from Duran Duran, though admittedly it did confuse me back then). And finally, the EastEnders cast did their version of Queen’s song I Want to Break Free single for Children in Need (1980-). With those playing Barry Evans and Ian Beale in this er (misguided) tribute.
All I knew about Queen’s music until seeing this film was watching their memorable pop videos on Top of the Pops (1964-2016). And those Flash Gordon (1980) and Highlander (1986) soundtracks through these 1980s movies. I’d also loved and duly bought Freddie Mercury’s solo single I Was Born to Love You and heard the film’s titular track, Bohemian Rhapsody, before that scene in Wayne’s World (1992).
However as a teenager, like the rest of the world back in 1985, I’d tuned in to Live Aid (1985) hoping to see my favourite bands from that time. However, I now remember being transfixed by Freddie Mercury strutting his stuff on that Wembley stage doing their bit for Bob Geldof’s charity concert. This was held with proceeds going to charity to help combat the Ethiopian famine.
I remembered Queen’s all too brief stint on stage back then, so much more than what Phil Collins sang. Or which 1980s actors made appearances on the American stage in Philadelphia. These were initially the main reasons for tuning in the way back then (and don’t ask me about these as I really don’t remember).
The film titles – in a brilliantly conceived idea – have real-life Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor performing the 20th Century Fox fanfare. This Darlin’ Husband and I both grinned at this perfect moment for what could be the most beguiling musician themed biopic ever. The film then takes you backstage to that Live Aid stage where we meet Mercury and the band in the opening scenes of this biopic movie.
Live Aid brought to life again so splendidly and credibly, capturing the mood and feeling of the time so much that I cried. These scenes were that bloody good. Memorable. Amazing. TBH, this “Live Aid” performance by Rami Malek as he captured the flamboyant singer perfectly and so spookily accurately. With his perfect lip-synch / singing and that signature Mercury moves with his microphone stand.
Malek only upstaged by the actor, Gwilym Lee playing Brian May who – without the risk of sounding Philomena Cunk – looked like a perfect CGI Brian May, but much more animated as a real-life man. And if they don’t make a spin-off Brian May film with him in the leading role, I’ll be most upset. It does mean however I can’t see Lee as any other character – real or imagined – ever.
The film then tells you of the band members from their first meeting. Brian May (Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy)’s band Smile plays at a nightclub, their lead singer quits and Mercury (then known as Farrokh Bulsara) offers to be their lead singer. Mercury auditioned successfully in the nightclub car park, here taking not just the band’s breath away with an incredible unaccompanied solo. Mercury meets the girl of his dreams, the same night in the form of a pretty blonde, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton).
Austin who works in a fashionable boutique proves to be the love of Mercury’s life and his best friend. Austin and Mercury make a strikingly attractive, 1970s couple. The band now Queen, and Bulsara now Freddie Mercury, add bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) to their lineup. The band tour – and then sell their van – to record their debut album. However, this career choice was a major disappointment to Mercury’s disapproving Indian-British Parsi father.
The band get a record contract with EMI Records managed by John Reid (Aidan Gillen). Mary loyally supports and loves Mercury throughout this time, and the loved up pair get engaged after he proposes (I sobbed of course). Highly successful tours follow with some fantastically staged musical montages and songs, which are again felt and experienced rather than watched. However, on the American tour with the band, a few men catch Mercury’s eye.
In 1975, the band members meet with music executive Ray Foster (Mike Myers). The band want to make the six-minute track, Bohemian Rhapsody their lead song from A Night at the Opera. This idea, clashes with Forster’s views, so EMI and Queen part ways. With this record debuted on the radio by Kenny Everett (spotted by Darlin’ Husband) – remember him??.
Mercury then has a fling with Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), their daily manager. Mercury breaks up with Austin and he comes out as bisexual. This scene is movingly portrayed by Boynton and Malek. The pair remain close friends, with her even living next door.
In the 80s, Mercury holds lavish parties where he meets a waiter, Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker). The pair briefly connect before Jim turns down further advances from Mercury. Hutton asks Mercury to find him once he likes himself more. The band split up, after “creative differences” and Mercury’s attitude towards the others changed. Mercury now briefly dabbling in the movie as an apparently forgettable solo career.
After discovering Paul has been keeping his friends from contacting him and Paul not telling him an invite to sing at the Live Aid concert, Mercury dumps him. Mercury discovers that he has the AIDS virus in tragic scenes. Mercury reconciles with the band and his manager Jim Beach (Hollander). And tracks down Jim Hutton in the same way as Hugh Grant
stalks tracks down Martine McCutcheon in Love Actually (2003), and despite this film coincidence I still cried. Then we return Queen backstage at Live Aid…
I adored this wonderful – albeit at times inaccurate – biopic. With Ramek making a fantastic and flamboyant Mercury. The actor only marred with those prosthetic additional teeth, which sadly detracted from his character. The fact that Mercury may have looked a bit toothy is up for debate, but I – and others I’ve discussed this point with – certainly don’t recall him in that vein.
At first glances, admittedly to me, Ramek looked more like a young Mick Jagger. However, these thoughts soon disappeared as the actor threw himself into Mercury’s on-stage persona with the flair, poise and presence of this singer relived in this performance. And seen within the band’s on stage and off stage chemistry in this film. This is seen to full effect as this musical collaboration progresses.
Lee as Brian May, had me spellbound in every scene he played in – guitar optional – he replicated May’s distinctive looks perfectly and with his lovely English voice. The other band members are also seen with Hardy as Roger Taylor was played with some humourous – and more serious – scenes. Sadly, Mazzello as John Deacon sadly didn’t have much to do and say.
All these actors, making me pine for those English accents back home. Other actors to look out for included Myers with an unrecognisable appearance and a wonderful gruff Northern accent. He also gave a wee in-joke reference to one of his movies mentioned earlier in this post. Tom Hollander was just lovely as Jim Beach.
The musical numbers from the Queen actors were played, sung and lip-synched or sung enthusiastically. Always with the presence, punch and panache of the real-life band. Sadly I never saw Mercury and the rest of Queen in concert, but I was blown away by these wonderful tracks taking you back easily to those musical times. I can only imagine how it felt like watching Queen in concert, where you get taken in and lost in their music. These are performed by the cast, simply fantastically at so many levels.
Also wonderful was the costume design and being a girl I so want Boynton’s 1970s wardrobe for this film for Christmas. With Mercury also looking very 1970s glam rock in everything from a full-body lycra leotard to a fur coat, the pair exuding 1970s fashions reminding me easily of Helmut Berger’s 1970s set, Dorian Gray (1970). Malek’s on-screen wardrobe also includes groovy platform sole shoes to funky skintight satin trousers.
Now with the Live Aid Biopic Universe officially in full swing, it’s not just Darlin Husband and I looking forward to more of this apparent musical biopic series. This series possibly started with Love & Mercy (2014) in that Brian Wilson and Beach Boys biopic and which is unlikely to end with Elton John in next year’s offering, Rocketman (2019). Meanwhile, the Queen biopic rules at the box office as the highest-grossing musician biopic of all time, taking you back to that time when Queen reigned the charts.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: 0/10
Cinema Shame No 11: December
This post was written for the last of my Cinema Shame posts. Other films with this cast include Lucy Boynton in Miss Potter. Tom Hollander stars in Family Guy and About Time with the film reviewed HERE and the trailer HERE. Ben Hardy appeared in Eastenders. Mike Myers appears in my tribute bost to Verne Troyer for those Austin Powers films.