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08 Nov 2018

Insulting a Legend: 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Is an Embarrassing, Milquetoast Movie That Resorts to Fakery Regarding the Life of Freddie Mercury

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Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody. Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Rami Malek gives it his all as Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of Queen, in Bohemian Rhapsody. Oh, and there’s a competent re-creation of Queen’s Live Aid domination.

Unfortunately, those are the only good things one can say about this embarrassing effort to memorialize an incredible person and his sadly short life.

The movie basically takes Mercury’s legacy, completely screws with his life’s timeline, and makes up a bunch of unnecessary occurrences to pad its 134-minute running time. So much of this film isn’t true; that, and the fact that they took this hard-living rock star’s life and homogenized it for a PG-13 film makes Bohemian Rhapsody far from authentic.

Mercury died from pneumonia while battling AIDS in 1991; he was diagnosed with the illness in 1987. This film—partially directed by Bryan Singer and then finished by Dexter Fletcher—has Mercury learning about his diagnosis before his incredible 1985 Live Aid performance, and even shows him telling the band about his illness shortly before they went onstage. This is complete bullshit.

The film also suggests that Queen was broken up for years before hitting the stage for Live Aid. While the band members did put out some solo albums, and they probably squabbled like most groups do, the band continued as a unit. They were friends. The film purports to show Live Aid as their reunion gig, but the band was already on a live tour when they took the stage for those legendary 20 minutes. More complete bullshit.

Mercury’s boyfriend at the end of his life was a man named Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker). The film shows them meeting when Mercury groped Hutton, depicted as a servant, while cleaning up after a crazy Mercury party. Again … complete bullshit: The two met in a gay bar; Hutton was a hairdresser, not a hired servant at Mercury’s house. The film depicts Mercury going through the phone book after meeting Hutton and trying to find him for years. Actually, the two met once; Hutton rejected Mercury; they then met up again a couple of years later, before dating and moving in together.

As for Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), the woman Mercury considered his common-law wife … the movie over-dramatizes what went on between them, and basically slanders the special bond these two people had.

Why do filmmakers need to distort facts like this, especially when the life in focus is so damned interesting? Mercury’s life could fuel five incredible movies, but instead, Bohemian Rhapsody is one mostly made-up soap opera. Perhaps this explains some of the drama that took place during the production. Singer was fired from the movie after fighting with producers and Malek; was his take more realistic? Sacha Baron Cohen was originally slated to play Mercury, but he left when the milquetoast version coming from producers and the remaining members of Queen began taking form. One could only imagine what we would’ve gotten had he remained involved.

Malek—acting through a set of big, fake teeth—is decent in the role. He actually sang on set, and his voice blended with a Mercury sound-alike to keep the movie from being a completely lip-synched affair. The musical sequences, including the Live Aid gig, are fun to watch. But, hey, if I want good Queen music, I can just watch the videos of Queen.

The movie between those musical sequences is terrible—a messed-up bit of fakery that promotes a lot of unintentional laughter. There’s a great, truthful movie to be made about the life of Freddie Mercury. Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t even come close to being that movie.

Bohemian Rhapsody is now playing at theaters across the valley.

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