Is this just fantasy?

Queen/Freddie Mercury legacy reduced to by-the-numbers rock bio

Starring Rami Malek. Directed by Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 1.0

Rami Malek gives it his all as Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of Queen, in the new biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. That and a competent recreation of Queen’s famous Live Aid domination at Wembley Stadium are just about the only good things you can say about this mostly embarrassing effort that falls way short of telling the actual story of this incredible person and his sadly short life.

Mercury died in 1991 at the age of 45 due to complications from pneumonia while battling AIDS. He wasn’t diagnosed with the illness until 1987. The film has Mercury learning of his diagnosis before his incredible 1985 Live Aid performance, even telling the band of his illness shortly before they went on stage. This is complete bullshit, and a total injustice to Mercury and his band’s legacy.

The film also suggests that Queen was broken up for years before hitting the stage for Live Aid. While the band members did, in fact, put out some solo albums and dialed back the live performances, the four continued as a unit. They recorded; they were friends. The film purports to show Live Aid as their reunion gig, but the band was already on a live tour when it took the stage for those legendary 20 minutes. More bullshit.

Then there are the details of Mercury’s love life—especially with regard to his end-of-life boyfriend, Jim Hutton (played by Aaron McCusker), and Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), the woman Mercury considered his common-law wife—which are altered and exploited to fit the dramatic needs of the by-the-numbers biopic.

The movie screws with Mercury’s timeline, invents a bunch of unnecessary events and homogenizes this hard-living rock star’s life for a generic PG-13 film that doesn’t feel anything close to authentic.

Why distort the story like this, especially when the life in focus is so damned interesting and could fuel five incredible movies instead of one hokey, mostly made-up soap opera? Director Bryan Singer was fired from the movie (and replaced with uncredited Dexter Fletcher) after conflicts between him and the producers as well as with Malek. Was his take a more realistic one? Sacha Baron Cohen was originally slated to star as Mercury, but fell out with producers and the remaining members of Queen when the milquetoast vision for the movie was truly taking form. One can only imagine what we would’ve gotten had he remained involved.

Malek, acting through a set of big fake teeth made to capture the look of Mercury’s four extra incisors, is decent in the role. He actually sang on set, his voice blended with a Mercury soundalike to keep the movie from being a completely lip-synched affair. The musical sequences, including the Live Aid gig, are fun to watch. But if I wanted to simply experience music by Queen, I’d just seek out the albums and videos of music by Queen.