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Freddie Mercury biopic: Is this the real life?

A cuddles-and-all, rather than a warts-and-all, experience, Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of a man who brought joy and happiness to many, many millions

26 October, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody

Directed by Bryan Singer
Certificate 12a

IF you are hoping for an enlightening insight into the world of global-selling, anthem-writing, hit-making musicianship, then look away now. If you are hoping for a fight-the-power celebration of the emancipation of gay men, where sexuality does not act as a block to being universally loved, then save your shekels.

But if you are looking for an immensely warm, gentle remembrance of a man who brought joy and happiness to many, many millions, then this biopic of Freddie Mercury and Queen will be right up your street.

For this is a cuddles-and-all, rather than warts-and-all, experience. There is a distinct lack of cutting-edge to it – this is Queen’s version of rock music, as opposed to Led Zep’s version, if you like.

We start with Freddie feeling like an out-of-place teenager growing up in the suburbs, his parents, originally from Zanzibar, trying to instil a straight-and-narrow ethic into their wayward son.

We follow him as he picks up a microphone, meets Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon and creates the hits as massive as their hair-dos. We follow their ups, downs and all in between, reaching a climax with that gig at Live Aid in 1985.

What works well is the fact that with May and Taylor on the credits as helping with the music, we get the back story to some of the biggest anthems popular rock music has ever produced – and it’s jolly to see how the bassline to Another One Bites The Dust came about, or the reaction by EMI executives to the six-minute-long Bohemian Rhapsody.

It’s been well publicised that the film had issues, with both the lead and director replaced during production, so it isn’t surprising it falls between two stools.

Parts feel like it has been designed by the fancy dress shop Escapade doing a 1970s theme night, and the hamminess could be a parody of the greatest parody of the lot, Spinal Tap.

But there is an important message that still needs to be shared – as made clear by the conscientious people who invaded the red carpet at the premiere this week to make the point that the resources given to the NHS to help combat life-threatening illnesses such as Aids are being undermined in this era of austerity.

And away from this part of Freddie’s legacy, there is the simple joy of what these four musicians created together.

Do you remember where you were on July 13, 1985? I do – at the summer fair of Brookfield primary school. I also recall the discussions as to whether the parents should postpone it for a week, because of it clashing with Live Aid. I remember my older siblings fussing about a concert taking place at Wembley.

The finale takes us back to that momentous moment, when Queen’s anthems were confirmed to be a shared sound for a generation.

Even if you don’t like the music, you can’t avoid the fact their compositions get under your skin, and Freddie’s performances are what being a lead singer is all about. If you watch this film, go afterwards to YouTube and check out the real thing. It will crank the little goosebumps this biopic creates up to 11.


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