'Bohemian Rhapsody': A sugar-coated memento (IANS Review, Rating: ***)
Film: "Bohemian Rhapsody"; Director: Bryan Singer; Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander and Mike Myers; Rating: ***
The film "Bohemian Rhapsody" gets its name from one of the most iconic songs of the unconventional, British rock band Queen and is aptly used to portray the biopic of its lead vocalist Farrokh Bulsara aka Freddie Mercury.
The film follows Freddie's life from the 1970s through the 1980s, right from his days as a loader at London's Heathrow Airport to how he stumbles on to become the band's lead singer and renames the group "Queen", to how some of the greatest hits were conceived and recorded. Through the 134 minutes of its run time we witness the birth, conformation, fall and return of Queen.
Rami Malek as the buck-faced Freddie, offers a credible performance, especially when the band is in the studio or in concert. Freddie Mercury was a complicated man radiating energy and full of nuances and Rami imitates those moments, earnestly. But unfortunately, his interpretation does not match with that of the original, thus at times his act lacks soul.
He is aptly supported by; Gwilyn Lee as Bryan May the band's guitarist who always seeks council and balance within the band, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor the drummer who at times is logger-heads with Freddie, Joseph Mazello as John Deacon the bassist of the group, Lucy Boynton as Freddie's love interest, Mary Austin.
Also, there are Allen Leech as Paul Prenter who manipulates Freddie as his lover and manager and Mike Myers as the sceptical music executive who insists that the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" has no hit potential.
Each one of them give their best to stamp their presence in a tale that is faithful to Freddie.
Anthony McCarten's screenplay, from a story by him and Peter Morgan, seems frustrating with an under-nourished drama. The film fails to be a good biopic, simply because it offers nothing exclusive. The plot, with its by-the-numbers scenes, tells us the facts that are very accessible to the public, at times softening its stance or events in some way or the other and in addition, it portrays the whole band (except Freddie) as good people and even a bit sanctimonious.
But the saving grace in the film is undoubtedly its excellent treatment during the musical moments, thanks to the excellent sound design, especially during the last act. The development of the chart-toppers are told gradually, with the build-up that the songs deserve, especially the number, "We Will Rock You." It makes the film almost like a concert, which for fans and others would be enough.
The final minutes, which include the momentous performance at the Live Aid benefit concert for Ethiopia, are glorious and manage to hook the audience in what is undoubtedly the best scenes of the entire film.
With fairly decent production values, the era is honestly captured thanks to the rich production and costume designers.
Overall, "Bohemian Rhapsody" may not be "the film", Queen fans wanted it to be, but it surely is a sweet, sugar-coated memento for the legendary singer.