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Bohemian Rhapsody


Stars: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers

Director: Dexter Fletcher

I admit it - initially I was disappointed by 'this celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury'.

But my discontent wasn't caused by what was on screen but rather by what wasn't. Given Mercury was born in Zanzibar and since I grew up in East Africa, I was really looking forward to seeing Zanzibar again.

No such luck. Here we learn about Mercury's early life from his Farsi parents who, by then, had fled Zanzibar and were living in England.

That said, Bohemian Rhapsody - scripted by Anthony McCarten - delivers great music and some genuinely moving drama in the tradition of popular, sanitised-for-major-audience-approval biopics. Which means that while we learn that Mercury ('I think I'm bisexual') died of AIDS, the film's emphasis is on Mercury, Queen and their rise from pub performers to world fame, rather than dwelling on Mercury's homosexual life.

(Presumably having Queen stars Brian May and Roger Taylor credited as consultants and executive music producers helps account for the story's sexual purification so as to ensure a mass audience).

Reportedly the film's production was turbulent, leading to the fortuitous departure of Sacha Baron Cohen, leaving Mercury to be memorably brought to life by US TV star Malek while former child-star-turned-filmmaker Fletcher does a good job (director Bryan Singer, like Cohen, left the picture after disagreements).

The narrative is effectively bookended (with appropriate applause) with the legendary 1985 Live Aid concert (Princess Diana makes a brief appearance on a giant television screen in the well used documentary footage) before segueing into the saga of Queen's rise and rise and its sudden collapse when Mercury ('I'm exactly the person I want to be' shuns the band for a solo career that ended with his AIDS diagnosis, leaving him to re-join them for Live Aid.

Performances are effectively to the point (Boynton in particular scores as Mercury's fiancee) with Malek, inescapably and rightly stealing the show as Mercury.

When he states 'Tonight I'm going to have a really good time' he could well also be speaking for cinemagoers seeking a persuasive musical biopic.

Alan Frank

UK/USA 2018. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour.
134 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 29 Oct 2018