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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Flawed 'Rhapsody' features champion Malek performance
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2018-11-06

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Freddie Mercury is figuratively thrown under the tour bus in the new biographical film about the legendary band Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody, but still comes out a champion.

The cast and crew were plagued with problems from the beginning of the creation of this project after several shakeups. When the trailer for the film was first released, many people in the community voiced concern that Mercury's sexuality might be ignored or straightwashed. It is included—in a PG-13 type of way—and the band decided early on during production that they wanted a family-friendly approach. That's a shame, because the most entertaining bits in the movie are when Mercury is in your face and flamboyant.

Mercury claimed to be bisexual, but his exploits were all with men, aside from the female love interest Mary Austin, according to the film. Mercury's girlfriend makes excuses for him and explains that he just can't help himself. He seems to have no will power when out on the road and away from her, eventually developing a regular relationship with the band's second manager, Paul Prenter, later in the film, and takes part in orgies until the big bad breakup.

Mercury's sexuality was not clear-cut or easy to define. This was during a time when many gay musicians insisted they were also bisexual, so this possibly was Mercury's way of dealing with a harsh society. The lead singer didn't care for the press, as depicted in one scene where the band is promoting the album Hot Space. The reporters try to pry answers out of him, but he is not having it and plainly doesn't want to talk about his private life.

Many LGBT moviegoers may take issue with how the rest of the band Queen treats him. They lament that he won't settle down like them and note how they return to their stable families while he continues his wild lifestyle. The party is over when Mercury contracts AIDS and, suddenly, everyone is sympathetic toward him. We as the audience are then finally allowed to feel bad for him, as he struggles with a failing voice and a lonely life with his loyal cats.

Rami Malek is outstanding as Farrokh Bulsara, who later became Freddie Mercury, and seeing him transform into the icon, complete with prosthetic teeth, may pay off during awards season. Mercury's extravagant outfits and extreme talent are on the screen for a whole new generation to see.

Trying to fill Mercury's shoes must have been a daunting task but Mr. Robot goes for it with gusto. Malek said he didn't know much about Queen until making the movie and now is a fan. I think the fans will be impressed by his performance, especially the ones that didn't know about him before this project. The movie needed a strong actor like him and he earned that paycheck. He worked with a vocal coach and channels Mercury's inner self instead of just impersonating the theatrical singer. It pays off big-time.

The rest of the cast of Bohemian Rhapsody is also very good. Sing Street's Lucy Boynton plays Mary Austin adequately, and Joseph Mazzello—as John Deacon—really stands out. The story spans the forming of the band in 1970 until Mercury's death in 1991 and has a lot to cover in the over two-hour biopic. The soundtrack separates the storyline with unforgettable songs, giving some behind-the-scenes to the creative process. The lesser-known tracks are not included because of the long running time. It's a shame, as the diehards might leave feeling a bit frustrated. Where was "Bicycle Race?"

Director Bryan Singer and replacement Dexter Fletcher both elevate the final scenes by recreating a full on rock concert for Live Aid. This is where Bohemian Rhapsody shines and makes it worth the price of seeing it at the theater. Malek chews up the stage and spits it out for the massive crowds to witness. An exact replica of the 1985 Wembley Stadium set was brought to Bovingdon Airfield for the final scenes and it was worth the effort.

The parts finally all click together at the end, showing why Queen ruled back then and still will rock you today.

Bohemian Rhapsody is currently playing in theaters.


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