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'Bohemian Rhapsody': Endearing, but not a great Freddy Mercury biopic (Movie Review)

Friday - November 16, 2018 2:30 pm , Category : ENTERTAINMENT
Film: "Bohemian Rhapsody"; Director: Bryan Singer; Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander and Mike Myers; Rating: ***
 

"Bohemian Rhapsody" is a deeply flawed biopic on a deeply-flawed, though monstrously gifted musician-singer-composer, who changed the way we looked at rock.
 
So how did Farrokh Bulsara become Freddy Mercury? The journey was a tumultuous one, here in this decorous and faithful biopic strewn with self-revelations (his homosexuality, for one) and the backstage chatter was overpowering in its power to build Freddy's image as a mercurial musician who inhabited a stratosphere octaves above the rest.
 
This biopic, troubled by production glitches right through, succeeds in making Freddy look sassy and campy without flipping his music into the conundrum of eccentricity. Come to think of it, there is nothing really wrong with this bird's eye view of life that defied deviant deification. It ticks all the boxes in the biopic genre, offends no one seriously and defends none either.
 
The non-judgmental not-taking-sides attitude is also an impediment to an unfettered easy-breathing ride. The narrative is too anxious to get it all right and to get it all into that two hour-space. Every landmark "Queen" song gets airplay and an elaborate pre-explanation in the scheme of things. Every character who ever touched Freddy's life is brought in for considering, no matter how fleeting.
 
Sagaciously, the onus of opening out Freddy's sexuality has been placed on his long-term "girlfriend" Mary Austin (played with an understated lustre by Lucy Boynton), the scenes between them where she is baffled by his response to gender issues are sensitively crafted, and a far cry from the hoarse aggressive look-at-me attitude adopted for all the recording and performing portions which are clearly meant to replicate the rabble-rousing energy of Freddy's live performances. And they succeed in grabbing us by our jowls.
 
This brings me to this politically correct biopic's central issue.
 
Rami Malek as Freddy is everything you expect him to be -- toothy mouth, wild hair, unisex clothes and girlie gait... It's all there. But then again, this is not Freddy Mercury. This is Freddy according to Malek. I recently saw this interesting Egyptian actor in the remake of "Papillon" and I found him employing the same camera tricks here as he did in "Papillon". Which is not really a wrong thing to do. Every actor can only take a character as far as the performing skills allow. This one just doesn't go far enough.
 
For a film attempting to encapsulate a life that was lived by none of the rules, this biopic embraces a surprisingly proper tone of storytelling. Not ready to offend anyone, thereby reducing Freddy Mercury's iconoclasm to a textbookish tell-all tale that tells all what it wants to and nothing more.
 
Neither bohemian enough to give Freddy's life story a dizzying spin nor quite a rigorous rhapsody, at the end of it all, it is not quite "We Will Rock You". But neither is it "Another One Bites The Dust". If you are a Freddy Mercury fan (which I am not), you may want to know a lot more about him than this movie is willing to tell.
 

--IANS 

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