Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Rami Malek
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It’s crowd-pleasing and full of spine-tingling, thrust-your-fist-in-the-air moments, but music biopic Bohemian Rhapsody feels too neatly packaged to be a real portrayal of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury.
And it turns out it is. The film plays fast and loose with the truth, adding non-factual elements to fit its narrative and sweeping over any nuance or complexity. News Review’s Bob Grimm pointed out a few of these grievous inaccuracies, including the fact that the film shows the band split for four years when it never did; that Mercury learnt of his HIV-positive diagnosis before the world-famous Live Aid concert, when he only learnt of it two years later; as well as largely reimagining the relationship between Mercury and his common law wife Mary Austin.
But the biggest problem is that it’s all too PG-13. The rambunctious, sexy, larger-than-life Mercury is reduced to a Hallmark version. Though Rami Malek (Mr Robot) obviously poured his heart into the role, he could never have won, given the source material he had to work with. Other critics accuse the film of moralising, by how it insinuates that Mercury would have been better off if he’d just stuck with his straight bandmate “family” and not gone off and been gay all over the place. Others say the film straightwashes, and I have to agree.
Mercury is Disney-gay in this film – just flamboyant and cutesy enough for straight people to feel comfortable with.
One has to grimace too, given the fact that Mercury was born in Zanzibar, a country that still gives life sentences to gay people, but peddles his name for tourist bucks. In Zanzibar you’re allowed to love Freddie, but not gay Freddie.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic for Queen fans lite, those who want to sing along and walk out the theatre with a spring in their step. And there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s perfect, feelgood family fare. But those looking for accuracy should wait until something better is put out.