Bites the dust

“Play it cool, Rami. I’m sure the real Freddie got his mic stuck in his pants once or twice too.”

“Play it cool, Rami. I’m sure the real Freddie got his mic stuck in his pants once or twice too.”

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 Live Aid domination, are just about the only good things you can say about this mostly 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 events to pad its 135-minute running time. So much of this film isn’t true, and the fact that they took this hard-living rock star’s life and homogenized it for a PG-13 film doesn’t help make it feel anything close to authentic.

Mercury died from pneumonia while battling AIDS in 1991. He wasn’t diagnosed with the illness until 1987. This film, partially directed by Bryan Singer and then finished by Dexter Fletcher, 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 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, a fully functioning unit, when they took the stage for those legendary 20 minutes. It’s more complete bullshit.

Mercury’s boyfriend at the end of his life was a man named Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker). The film depicts their meeting when Mercury gropes Hutton, depicted as a servant, cleaning up after a crazy Mercury party. The two met under completely different circumstances in a gay bar. Hutton was a hairdresser, not a hired servant at Mercury’s house. And Mercury never did a treasure hunt for Hutton. The film depicts him going through the phone book after meeting Hutton and trying to find him for years. The two met once. Hutton rejected Mercury, and then they met up again a couple of years later, eventually 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 and could fuel five incredible movies instead of one hokey, mostly madeup soap opera? Bryan Singer was fired from the movie after fighting with producers and Malek. Was his take a more realistic one? Sacha Baron Cohen was originally involved with the production but fell out with producers and the remaining members of Queen when the milquetoast vision for the movie was taking form. One can only imagine what we would’ve gotten had he remained involved.

Malek, acting through a big set of 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, hey, if I want good Queen music, I can just watch the videos of Queen.

There’s a movie happening between those musical sequences, and that movie is terrible, a messed-up bit of fakery that prompts 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.