By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Most every actor hopes they get an opportunity to portray a larger than life character. Jamie Foxx won an Oscar for his spot-on performance as Ray Charles in the 2004 biopic, “Ray.”
Chadwick Boseman was electric as James Brown in “Get on Up” (2014) Although now, Boseman will probably be forever remembered for his star turn as Black Panther/T’Challa.
Now, Rami Malek,
yeah “Mr. Robot,” has hit the spot in a big way too. In the new biopic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,”
Malek gives a dynamic performance as Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the British rock group Queen.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a good movie, but Malek is absolutely great in it. He’ll rock you even if you aren’t a Queen fan.
Prior to its release “Bohemian Rhapsody” was dogged by controversy. Twentieth Century Fox fired director Bryan Singer from the production and replaced him with Dexter Fletcher (“Smoking Guns”). Still, the movie—thanks largely to Malek—is thoroughly entertaining despite its somewhat scattershot feel of playing fast and loose with facts.
Malek inhabits Mercury’s flamboyancy, idiosyncrasies and most importantly the heart and soul of the legendary rocker who died in 1991 from bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS.
When I first learned that Malek had been tapped to star as Mercury, I had my reservations especially since Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat” and “The Dictator”) was the first and seemingly obvious choice. However, Cohen left the “R” rated production due to “creative differences.”
With Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a milder, PG-13 sanitized version of Mercury and Queen’s life story.
We see how Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, became the hard rocker and catapulted the group into rock history.
No one would have believed that this weird looking guy with the prominent teeth and who worked as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport would possibly become one of the biggest rock stars on the planet.
Mercury’s conservative father (Ace Bhatti, TV’s “No Offence”) wishes his son had chosen a career other than a rock musician.
But, when Mercury auditions for his soon to be bandmates; guitarist/astrophysics scholar Brian May (Gwilym Lee, “The Last Witness” ), drummer/dental student Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy, “Only the Brave”) and bass player John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello, “Undrafted”) and blows them away, a star is truly born.
It doesn’t take long before Mercury is strutting, primping and jamming on stage to songs like “Keep Yourself Alive.”
Mercury falls in love with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton, “Murder on the Orient Express”), a woman he swore he’d love romantically forever, but later realizes he’s gay. Despite her marrying someone else, their love and support for each other over the years seemed to endure.
Mercury led the charge for the group to try new things musically. His creative genius made them uniquely spectacular. With the help of their manager John Reid (Aidan Gillen, “Game of Thrones”) and attorney Jim Beach (Tom Hollander, “A Private War”), the band soon finds its footing on the music charts.
They use their newfound success as leverage with EMI music executive Ray Foster (A funny Mike Myers, “Terminal”) who swears he can make the group into mega superstars, but only if they get rid of that crazy, long song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” No one wants to listen to a song that long he tells them.
Of course, the irony is that “Bohemian Rhapsody”—while panned by critics-- became a huge hit for Queen along with their other rousing anthems, “We Will Rock You,” “Another one Bites the Dust,” We are the Champions” Killer Queen” and “Radio Ga Ga.”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” captures the mystique and appeal of Mercury and Queen. The good, the bad and the ugly. The more you watch Malek Rami, the more transformative and mesmerizing he is as Mercury. His voice is mixed with vocals from Queen and Marc Martel, the winner of the Queen Extravaganza Live Tour auditions.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” culminates with the band’s sizzling 1985 Live Aid performance. It’s an unforgettable showstopper and so is Rami Malek in this role.
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Watch This Trailer For "BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.