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Don't believe the critics. If you like Queen's music, see the Queen film

Don't believe the critics. If you like Queen's music, see the Queen film

When it was released as a single, Bohemian Rhapsody was slated by the critics â€" yet spent nine weeks at number one. Ben Elton’s Queen musical, We Will Rock You, was panned by reviewers when it was released 16 years ago: today, it’s still packing in crowds the world over. So when the Queen film, Bohemian Rhapsody, was trashed by pretty much every film reviewer in Britain, it was not a surprise. Nor, for those planning on watching it, would it have been a deterrent.

The film is not an expert portrait of Freddie Mercury, but it doesn’t pretend to be, any more than We Will Rock You pretends to be Chekov. The star is the music. We see how it’s written, recorded, argued over, revised and performed. It’s about the band and why they worked. In one scene, Freddie Mercury is shown asking his fellow band members to reform for Live Aid. He describes his solo career, where he had complete control and had been able to tell people to do whatever he wanted. ‘The problem was that they did,’ he says. They didn’t challenge or check him, administer funny looks, shape the music or give him better songs to sing. It’s a theme with most of the world’s great bands: together, they do more than any of them could do apart.

The film eulogises Queen as a group, underplaying Freddie’s solo career. Roger Taylor and Brian May, who were heavily involved in the film, emerge as angels. There are parts of the group’s story I’d like to have seen more of, such as when David Bowie heard John Deacon playing a bass riff that led to Under Pressure. Or how they knew that filming I Want To Break Free in drag would lose them their American audience â€" but they went ahead due to a very British sense of self-mockery, refusing to take themselves seriously. Queen’s 20 minutes at Live Aid is billed as the best thing the band ever did, with their own Wembley gig and post-1986 career airbrushed out. There are a few anachronisms that the anally-retentive can get upset about, but to do so would be to forget a fundamental point.

This isn’t a documentary. It’s entertainment, and pretty good entertainment. The narrative, the Queen story, is cut short to make space for the music: a decent trade-off. The jokes are good, the dialogue sharp, Tom Hollander excels as Jim Beach, the manager. There’s plenty rewarding of insights about the group, how they worked and why they worked. As Taylor says in the film, Queen was a group of people who had very little in common with each other, making songs that didn’t fit an oeuvre or formula. Music by misfits, for misfits.

This film is a misfit. It is too cheesy, too flamboyant, too saccharine, at times hopelessly camp, not sufficiently serious or particularly interested in being serious. And, in this sense, it was true to its subject. And that’s precis ely why it’s so enjoyable. I watched in the Imax in Waterloo, and looked at the faces of the audience â€" all smiling during the performances. They had come not to be moved by the tragedy of Freddie’s downfall, but entertained by his music and memory. On the way out I heard people comparing which parts they cried at and â€" in general â€" saying glad they were to have ignored the critics. If you go, I suspect you will be too.

Source: Google News Music

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