Goodness me! - but hasn't this had a chequered history! I'll say straight out that some of my misgivings (based entirely on early mixed reviews) were largely unfounded - and I liked this more than I was expecting to.
Btw: I'd better add that I've been a 'Queen' fan ever since first becoming aware of them.
There was the matter of Sacha Baron Cohen pulling out over 'creative differences' with original Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor (who remain as Executive Producers of this final product) , Cohen wanting to make it 'edgier' and focussing on Freddy Mercury's story, the other two wishing it to be more encompassing of the whole group.
Then there was the matter of director Bryan Singer being sacked over his rows, particularly with Rami Malek (playing Freddy M., of course), and Dexter Fletcher taking over for the final couple of weeks' shooting. It's Singer who actually gets the sole directing on-screen credit. There are also, just to mention in passing, the sexual misconduct allegations against Singer still unresolved - nothing to do with this present film.
Some are complaining that this film version has been sanitised with regard to Mercury's sexual proclivities, so I was surprised that even though there's nothing explicit shown (just a couple of full-on male-male kisses, though facially obscured), his sexuality wasn't in any sense skated over or downplayed. Even the dullest viewer would have picked up the inferences - the first being when looks are exchanged between him and a bear of a guy going into the men's toilets, leaving the former with a hankering look on his face, as though bewildered on discovering his feelings for the first time in that direction. Later on Freddy M. confesses to his close girlfriend, Mary Austin (played by Lucy Boynton) whom he had previously proposed to and been accepted, "I think I'm bisexual!"
More problematic for me was that Malek does such an astonishing imitation of Mercury, sweeping all other characters aside with the result that while his persona is lit up in blazing technicolour practically everybody else seems anodyne in comparison - and I include the other Queen members, played by Gwilyn Lee and Ben Hardy (as May and Taylor, respectively) as well as Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon. Also, regarding the aforementioned Mary Boynton as his one-time fiancee, and Aaron McCutcheon as his male lover, Jim Hutton - just what did Mercury see in either of those? I didn't detect much emotional fizz at anytime between the two of them and Mercury. Also, Freddy's strait-laced parents seemed to be little more than ciphers.
The short impersonation of Kenny Everett I thought pretty well spot-on, and the almost unrecognisable Mike Myers steals his single extended scene as record producer with a self-referential one-liner regarding his conviction that 'Rhapsody' would never be played on the radio.
As for Rami Malek, only one word will do - amazing! His transformation into Mercury's strutting peacock is totally credible. Some are saying that his singing voice and his appearance aren't quite right. In my book, they are both close enough as makes no difference that matters. His singing has equal power to the original - and even the latter when singing the group's well-known hits would, like all sensible artistes, make small variations in emphasis for each performance. But for me his clear-cut, almost upper-class speaking voice was right on target, as judged against the voice we know from Mercury's interviews. No, I've no serious criticism at all of Malek.
As May and Taylor had sufficient influence to reject Sacha Baron Cohen's ideas it begs the question as to how much influence they had in shaping this final product. I'd suggest a lot, as there's little here for those two and Deacon to complain about in their portrayals. Apart from the very sparse bitchy remark, the furious rows are all with Mercury, the other three being of one unified mind. They'd have nothing here for their children and spouses to be ashamed to witness. All the accusations and regrets about Mercury's conduct would be due to the fault of his own temperament. I've little doubt that this may be closer to the truth than the converse, though this constant three-against one does appear to my mind to be terribly one-sided. Maybe it is accurate after all, who knows for sure other than the surviving Queen members?
The story takes one from Farrokh Bulsara joining the struggling group 'Smile' playing in small local night clubs up to the historic 20-minute set at Wembley Stadium for Live Aid 1985, the latter reincarnation being absolutely magnificent, I feeling the selfsame thrill when watching it live on T.V. all those years ago - as a middle-aged bopper (!). Got my adrenalin pumping all over again.
The start of Mercury's physical decline with the onset of AIDS is sensitively depicted, and I've no moans to make there either.
There's little doubt that Rami Malek carries the film. Anyone else failing to come up to his standard would have let down the entire venture - and he manifestly does not.
For those who are not fans of the group, their appreciation of the film might well be more restrained.
If this doesn't quite qualify as one of my 'Best Films of 2018', it sure is one of my 'better' ones...................7.
(IMDb.................8.5 / Rott. Toms...............5.7! - bound to rise later)
5 hours ago
I want to see it just for Malek. Have heard so much about that. As for Sach Barón Cohen, I’m glad he left. He can be funny at times but I think he would have turned this into an over the top spectacle and nothing more.ReplyDelete
You don't say what you thought of it, Mitch.Delete
I'd never heard of Malek before this, but I expect to be hearing more.
I think S.B.C. might have brought something worthwhile to the role, though I'd hope they'd have been able to digitally bring down his height. But as it turned out he would not have been as good as Malek was - in fact no one could have been.
Sorry, Mitch - I've just seen that you said you WANT to see it - which I'd read as you WENT to see it. You really must do so.Delete
I am so glad you enjoyed it. I was getting a bit worried with your delay in publishing that you were going to say you didn't!ReplyDelete
The delay was just because of the article's length, Rachel, the longest I've written, I think. More grammar and language to iron out than usual.Delete
you saw live aid IN PERSON? WOW! AMAZEBALLS!ReplyDelete
all the clips I have seen of rami malek convinced me he IS freddie! SBC - bah! don't know whether this film has been released here yet. must go google...
'fraid not, W.Q. No, I wasn't there at Wembley. I only watched it being broadcast live on telly, like over a billion others. (I've made an insert above to clarify it).Delete
I saw Rami Malek being interviewed about the film on Stephen Colbert about a week ago. So if it's not yet been released over there it shortly will be.
starting here 11/2Delete
Jolly good. So a rare visit to the cinema for you then?Delete
As soon as I'd read Malek was playing the part I knew it would be perfect for him.ReplyDelete
Can't wait to see this one.
Don't take too much notice of the negative reviews, Bob. of which is are a growing number. Malek is absolutely extraordinary and he alone is worth the price of any ticket.Delete
No surprise that Malek carries the film. From what we've seen in his television show, "Mr. Robot" - he is absolutely brilliant and seems the perfect choice. I may change my mind after I've seen the film, but as of now, I am wishing it had been 'edgier.'ReplyDelete
Really appreciated your review and I am also waiting for Nadia Sawhala and her husband Mark to upload their review on YouTube. Btw, have you ever watched them? Lots of fun.
There have been complaints about the story being 'sanitised', Paul, and it's true that it could have been more hard-hitting. There's no holding back on the rows between the Freddy and the other three, but if 'edgier' means relating to matters physically sexual, I for one wouldn't have wanted to see explicit sex scenes involving Mercury with his girl friend or with a succession of men, all of which are broadly hinted at, leaving us to fill in the blanks. I was fairly content with the way it was portrayed.Delete
On the other hand, Mercury's well-documented drug-taking is played as being just incidental and of no great consequence - though one aspect in particular did trouble me. The film depicts Mercury as being the sole member of the group in hedonistic drug-fuelled parties in Munich and elsewhere, whereas we know that the other Queen members also participated, even though that is not even suggested in this film. It can only be May's and Taylor's influence that prevented their being shown as part of that scene. You'd quite fairly get the impression that the three of them, in contrast to Mercury, were dutiful, faithful, family men, with a consequence of an underscore to Mercury's fate which some detect of 'You reap what you sow'. If it's there I think people are over-reading that into the film, and I didn't get much sense of it.
I only use YouTube for the American political shows - Stephen Colbert, Rachel Meadow, Don Lemon, CNN etc. I'll follow up your suggestion, which sounds enticing.
I too was very surprised how good this was and like you said of Rami Malek. Him being a relatively newer actor, he was beyond amazing. Just uncanny how well he had Mercury down. Good for him.ReplyDelete
I plan to see it when it opens. The extended preview show I saw left me in awe alone.Delete
I'm a bit lost here, M.M. You saw an 'extended preview show' and you "plan to see it when it opens"? Aren't they the same thing for a film? From your first comment I'm assuming that you HAVE seen the whole thing - and that you enjoyed Malik's eye-popping performance as much as everyone else has, and that is very satisfying to know that you agree.Delete
I think I'll hate it... but we'll seeReplyDelete
I take it you weren't/aren't a 'Queen' fan then? If so, then you'll have less reason to like this, so why bother? - unless you're being dragged along unwillingly?Delete
Your review says exactly what I think about the film too. I will be very surprised if Rami doesn't at least get nominated for Best Actor Oscar. We really enjoyed this film, and I got my Queen cd's out to play as soon as we got home.ReplyDelete
Even if the original Queen members thought that the film should cover the whole group, D, there's no getting away from it that Freddy M., through his flamboyance and personality, was going to be at the centre of things. It needed a strong actor to carry it off so, and luckily that's exactly what Rami delivered. The entire film would have flopped if there'd been a lesser portrayal of the lead singer - and he deserves to have it recognised come awards season.Delete
I will see this. Thanks.ReplyDelete
It really does need to be seen, Gwil.Delete