There are stars and there are superstars. But there is only one Freddie Mercury.
We Are the Champions
Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano)
I’m glad they didn’t whitewash this role, casting an Egyptian-American as Mercury. And I’m happy they didn’t gloss over Mercury’s horrible teeth, which he was afraid to have fixed out of fear it would interfere with his voice. Can you believe they originally wanted Sacha Baron Coehn for this role?
Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin, Mercury’s girlfriend
It’s one thing when your boyfriend is an oddball, flamboyant rock singer at the local pubs. It’s another when he becomes one of the music world’s biggest superstars and is coming to terms with his sexuality.
Gwilym Lee as Brian May (lead guitar)
This guy looks creepily like the real Brian May.
Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor (drums)
One of the best scenes of the movie was Taylor trying to sing falsetto during the Galileo part of the iconic song. You got to love the guy who wrote I’m in Love With My Car.
Joseph Mazello as John Deacon (bass)
The man who gave us Another One Bites the Dust.
Allen Leech as Paul Prenter
Mercury’s personal manager, lover, and Yoko.
Mike Myers as Ray Foster, a music executive
A very fictionalized role, I think this was just a nod to how Myers pretty much single-handedly inspired a Queen revival in the 1990s. In the comedy Wayne’s World, Myers insisted they play “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the iconic headbanging scene, while the producers preferred “Welcome to the Jungle”. The success of the movie and the subsequent soundtrack caused “Bohemian Rhapsody” to hit number 2 on the charts in 1992, and introduced Queen to a new generation of fans. Myers’s character lambasts the song, insisting that teenagers want something they can bang their heads to in the car.
Aidan Gillen as John Reid, Queen’s original manager
This guy kind of got a bad rap in the film, with Mercury firing him for being incompetent and devious. In reality, the band stopped working with him because he managed Elton John as well, and they felt he couldn’t give them adequate time.
Tom Hollander as Jim ‘Miami’ Beech, Queen’s lawyer-turned manager (and one of the producers of this film)
I’m embarrassed that this character was the one I most identified with. A nerdy lawyer, unexpectedly asked to manage the band, who suddenly becomes cool by association. That’s about as close to rock stardom as I’d ever come.
Aaron McCusker as Jim Hutton, Mercury’s later boyfriend
One of the most sympathetic characters in the film, and one of the few people impressed with Mercury as a person. One of the funniest film moments was when Mercury tries to reconnect with Hutton after spending an evening with him, but this was the era of the phone book. And there are a lot of Jim Huttons in London.
A Kind of Magic
I always kind of assumed that Mercury descended to earth as a fully formed and sexy man, riding on the back of a unicorn. Instead, we’re introduced to Farrokh Bulsara, a young Parsi, who’s working as a baggage handler as Heathrow Airport. Yeah, I had no idea he wasn’t white, but he was actually born in Zanzibar to conservative Zoroastrian parents. I’m glad the movie cast an actually person of color as Mercury, though with the number of image changes he experienced in his career, that must have been a grueling role.
Now my father likes to brag about how in the early 60s he used to get to see Tina and Ike Turner sing at a local club for just fifty cents. And I hear stories of people who were at the original Woodstock, unaware of the musical history they were experiencing. I think I’m going to have to add the customers at the sleazy British pubs who got to experience the first public performances of the band that would be Queen. But hey, one time in college my girlfriend snuck me into a Chicago concert. So yay.
This movie had excellent musical numbers, culminating with the Live Aid concert in ’85. Actor Malek did some of the singing; they dubbed in original Queen in other places. We experience the band’s many incarnations: pop, disco, arena rock, and yes, opera.
The most emotional parts of the movie were Mercury coming to grips with his own homosexuality (look for a cameo by Adam Lambert as an anonymous truck stop hookup). In the 70s and 80s, being gay was not only considered a deviant behavior by much of society, but was actually illegal in many locations. It was difficult to watch the love between Mercury and Mary Austin, knowing their relationship was a doomed one.
And then of course there’s the elephant in the room. Mercury was one of the first celebrities (along with Liberace and Rock Hudson) to die of AIDS. It’s sad to think with an earlier diagnosis and modern medicine, he might still be with us today.
All that being said, this was a biopic of one man, not a band. The other three were mere supporting actors in this movie, and it’s a bit of a shame we didn’t hear more about their own lives and struggles.
Don’t Stop Me Now (Spoilers)
- Mercury going clubbing while wearing his mother’s shirt.
- Mary, who worked at a department store, helping Mercury buy outfits from the women’s department and suggesting he wear eyeliner.
- Mercury making sexual comments to Mary in front of her deaf father, unaware that he reads lips.
- The birth of his famous stick microphone.
- May, Deacon and Taylor fighting at the farm where they’re recording an album. Taylor gets pissed and starts smashing up the kitchen.
May and Deacon: “Not the coffee machine!”
- The backstories behind pretty much all of Queen’s hits.
- The scathing critical reviews of the song “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
- The realization that Mercury has everything in life but a clean bill of health.
- Mercury and his beloved cats.
These are the Days of our Lives
When you make a movie about the lives of real people, you pretty much know how things are going to begin and end. But sometimes real life is stagnant and repetitive and needs a villain. I liked this movie at face value, but I’m not a mega super Queen fan of decades. Some of my friends and Wikipedia pointed out many fictionalized things in the movie.
- The order that the songs were written and produced, and the dates of a lot of the concerts were changed.
- I was just waiting for the big ‘This used to be about the music!’ ego fight with the band and I wasn’t disappointed. But the film portrays Mercury as a diva who, under the urging of Prentner, betrayed his manager, his bandmates, and his fans. In reality, the band has just grown tired of touring and agreed to pursue solo projects for a while. But how does that make for a dramatic scene?
- While Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis was a big deal, in reality that didn’t happen until after the Live Aid concern, which was the climax of the movie.
On the one hand, Hollywood is Hollywood, and sometimes you have to alter the facts to make a good movie. But c’mon, this is Freddie Freakin’ Mercury. Did they need to fictionalize ANYTHING about his life?
You’re My Best Friend
If you’ve followed this band for decades, you might consider just buying the soundtrack. But if you’re unfamiliar with the history of this amazing band with its larger than life lead singer, it’s worth a watch.