By Laurie Coker
Playing Freddy Mercury, the flamboyant lead singer of the world know band Queen, has obvious challenges – the look, the mannerisms, the sass, and the flair. Mercury, a musical genius and icon, with a voice that filled even the largest venues, died in the 90s of AIDS-related complications. Rami Malek steps into the role in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, and he embodies the essence of man and the legend. While there is little to compare in looks, Malek manages to make us believe we are watching Mercury himself as he preens, prances, and performs effortlessly on some of the world’s smallest and largest stages. While the story feels a bit mundane, Malek and other cast/bandmates make director Bryan Singer’s movie a sing-along, body-moving, rock n roll event.
Those of us who listened to and followed Queen through the band’s glory days and remember the singer’s death know the words to their hit songs by and remember exactly where we were in our lives when they hit the charts. Watching Malek’s time-transportable performance is like being at a concert, but better because we get a backstage pass to his life and a touch of the history of Queen. In the film, Gwilym Lee and Joseph Mazzello play Queen guitarist Brian May and bassist John Deacon respectively and Brian Hardy portray Queen drummer, Roger Taylor. The actors’ perfectly paced dialogue and timing with Malek make the band’s relationships come to life. May and Taylor are listed as musical consultants on the film, and from a fan’s standpoint, the music is the best part of the story. Mercury’s life and death, after all, are similar to many tortured artists’ tales, but this fresh and engaging cast makes us believe we are watching Queen.
A particularly exciting element of the movie is a remake of the Live Aid appearance of the band. Live Aid took place simultaneously in the UK and the US and garnered millions for Ethiopian famine relief. Watching Malek’s captivating performance coupled with the music exhilarated the movie audience at the screening. Another bonus is learning tidbits about the band and its lead singer that only diehard fans might know. While Mercury’s story is just another in a long line of tortured artists whose lifestyles lead to strife and even death, Bohemian Rhapsody highlights the music as much as the man. Perhaps my generation will enjoy it more, but then again, Queen fans might be the staunchest critics, but Singer and an extremely well-matched cast earn an A in my grade book. Bravo to Malek, too. He is a star who deserves to shine!