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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Bohemian Rhapsody | Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Lucy Boynton, Tom Hollander, Aaron McCusker

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
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Bohemian Rhapsody | Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Lucy Boynton, Tom Hollander, Aaron McCusker | Review

Bohemian Rhapsody is not so much the story of the rock group Queen as it is the story of Farrokh Bulsara.  

Who?

Farrokh Bulsara, the Heathrow baggage handler, born in Zanzibar (now Tanzania).  The guy with the humongous, toothy overbite. The guy whose parents were Zoroastrians from the Gujarat region of Bombay, India, a British province at the time (1946).  The guy who lived in Zanzibar and India until his late teens, when his family moved to England.

There, Farrokh Bulsara became Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) after working in several bands before joining one named Smile that would result in the talented lineup known as Queen.  After that, no one would ever ask, “Who?” about Freddie Mercury again.
 
Queen’s meteoric rise in the music industry, fueled by Mercury’s confidence and musical innovation, launched the singer’s white-hot career before it zig-zagged amid dubious decisions, alienation, and regret. Bohemian Rhapsody reveals some of those zig and zags in the screen version of Mercury’s decadent, sometimes outrageous, sometimes melancholy life.

Bandmates  Roger Taylor(Ben Hardy) Brian May (Gwilym Lee) John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) provide the road family that Mercury needs but alienates all too frequently.  While they have a genuine and abiding affection for the force of nature that is Mercury, they eventually tire of his diva-like behavior.

In the relationship department, Mercury finds true love with Biba shop-girl Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) eventually presenting her with an engagement ring.  A few tours later the pair realize that they won’t ever be a romantic item due to inclination and orientation.  Both mourn the reality of the situation but remain lifelong friends.

Rami Malek channels Mercury in moves, attitude, and yes, teeth, bringing the singer to life through a mixture of equal parts joie de vivre, sass, and a somber introspection that invests the viewer with the character on a visceral level.   Early in the film, Malek struggles with the difficult prosthetic in his mouth.  Later, he seems to literally grow into them as Queen rules audiences on an international level.  

When his teeth are mentioned as a possible impediment to his singing, Mercury alleges the overbite gives him more room in his mouth, hence greater range. That kind of fake-it-till-you-make-it confidence is apparent in Mercury’s exhilaratingly tarty, campy stage persona.  A four-octave range didn’t hurt.
 
Director Bryan Singer (X-Men) keeps the spotlight on Mercury while providing fans with all of the iconic songs and some of their origin stories. This is a personality driven film and Malek steals every scene.  A footage montage at the end credits zooms in on the real Mercury’s teeth as if to say, “See? We didn’t make it up!”  Packed with heart and poignancy, it starts and ends with Malek’s incandescent performance as the brash, playful Mercury.
 
Well edited with a savvy script by Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour) that incorporates wicked humor, the viewer is made to “feel” Mercury, for whom happiness eludes despite the flamboyant parties and clothes described by one fellow Queen band member as “angry lizard.”  Speaking of Queen band members, Brian May and Roger Taylor are listed as executive music producers.

Mike Myers has a cameo as EMI record executive Ray Foster, who scoffs at the idea of an operatic rock album.  “Mark these words: No one will play Queen.” Here’s where you break out the Wayne’s World scene in the car, folks.

The large supporting cast includes Aidan Gillen, Allan Leech, Tom Hollander, Aaron McCusker, Ace Bhatti, Meneka Das, and Dermot Murphy.  They orbit Malek’s Mercury as if there’s no light without him.  They’re right.

Mercury the planet is closest to the sun.  Mercury the element is known as quicksilver for its elusive, liquid metal quality.  Mercury the man was both heat and movement, adept at asking for forgiveness, never permission.  Bohemian Rhapsody makes for an exhilarating ride with Malek at the reins - or should I say reigns?

I should say reigns.

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