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Film Review: Rami Malek’s ‘Bohemian’ journey into Mercury

  • Published at 02:28 pm November 12th, 2018
Photo: IMDB

'When you dress like Freddie does, it makes every day feel like it’s gonna be a good time'

Making biopics is a crucial business as you get to choose the particular angles that you want to highlight among an array of them. Embracing every trope of the genre, the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” also had to put a lot of work on humanizing a legend, probably the best front man of all time Freddie Mercury while unveiling the ‘other’ journey of the band that includes the creative processes that made tunes that rocks us till today. 

But, at the same time, biopics are never good when they are squeaky clean. The awaiting audiences expect to see the tumbles and falls with a pre-ordained belief that big lives home big voids. With the presence of the two living Queen members, Brian May and Roger Taylor in the producers’ troop, it evidently was not an easy goal to reach and ran risk of being a-historic by masking up timeline as well. And, of course the band’s desire to “protect the legacy” even let Sacha Baron Cohen go – the one who was supposed to play the role of Mercury and been a part-and-parcel to the film for long six years. People thought that, with the striking physical resemblance to Mercury, Cohen was just a ‘fake mustache’ short and no one could fit the role better. But, the moment Dexter Fletcher saw 

Rami Malek walking into the sets of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” he figured that “Mr. Robot” actor with his Egyptian origin can prove to be a better fit for Mercury who, then again, hails from a Gujarati Parsi family settled in London.

Not everyone was convinced though, until Malek asked to replace his choreographers with a movement coach. Soon, his desired coach Polly Bennett was on board and the two started working on studying Mercury’s little mannerisms, turns, flicks of microphones and et voila! We had our beatnik ‘other-worldly-being’ ready to hit the silver screen in tightest fitting satin pants and 4-inch platform heels. Fosse walks and fake teeth did the rest which in Rami Malek’s words sounds like this --- “You don’t want to mimic Freddie. You want to be able to understand why he did what he did. And, when you dress like Freddie does, it makes every day feel like it’s gonna be a good time.” 

Audiences indeed are having a good time, as “Bohemian Rhapsody” was always going to be reliant on whoever plays Freddie Mercury, and Malek looks more than up to the task capturing the magnetism of the rock-star under the flashy flamboyant body-wraps that largely defied hetero-normativity in that very uptight time. 

With beautiful subtlety, the film (mostly Malek) conveys how a large part of Mercury's worldview came from the 'otherness' he had experienced his whole life and his ascension to British rock god status was not particularly easy. The first half shows that Mercury definitely had hard times to fit in, his name was difficult to pronounce for many therefore he let his family name drown in mercury and no doubt he did not look like anybody else in London. 

Thus, even though the film attempts a textbook-showbiz-biopic-storytelling, a strong undercurrent flows through Mercury’s dialogues, when he describes his band as a group of four misfits aspiring to make music for other misfits ---“Now we're four misfits who don't belong together, we're playing for the other misfits. They're the outcasts, right at the back of the room. We're pretty sure they don't belong either.” 

Speaking of misfits, as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and an electrifying Malek are sweeping many off their feet, today’s misfits are claiming that the story barely brushed through the personal-professional-private life of Mercury and his interactions with his band mates, unnecessarily tried to portray Mary Austin as the ‘Yoko Ono’ of Queen and altogether had crammed a beautiful film into the Hollywood-blockbusters’ script template to create a crowd pleasing mash-up! 

Many wanted to see more of the building up of the immortal tunes by Queen and asked for a better pace. But, not everyone liked Queen when Freddie Mercury got to strut and fret during the 80s and similarly not everyone liked “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Still, there are critics who think if Rami Malek is not considered for an Oscar this year, there could be riots. And as this star soars up the sky while playing Mercury, many thought it is an easy film --- one to be easily got over with.

Overall, leaving Malek’s performance aside, it is a forgettable film based on the life an unforgettable man! 

Gopa Biswas Caesar is a lecturer at the Department of Television, Film and Photography of University of Dhaka

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