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Bohemian Rhapsody: nostalgia and accents

I saw Bohemian Rhapsody earlier in the week, the new biopic of Freddy Mercury and Queen. I really enjoyed it. (So did the two priests who saw it with me. Long story.) Not having had particular expectations, I found myself awash with nostalgia, and there seemed to be something in my eye pretty constantly for the last twenty minutes, which has the cast more or less re-enacting Queen’s performance at Live Aid in July 1985. Dear heavens, half the people I work with weren’t even born then. I went and had a look at the archive footage, and it’s striking how well the event is portrayed on the large screen. Here’s the real thing:



And here’s the trailer for the film:



I was struck by the number of Northern Irish accents in the film. The Bad Boyfriend, Paul Prender, actually was from Belfast and is played with convincing Northern twang by Dublin-born Allen Leech. The Good Boyfriend, Jim Hutton, was from Carlow in real life, but is played by Aaron McCusker, born in Portadown and brought up in Armagh, with his native accent. On top of that, Dubliner Aiden Gillen plays a Scot (John Reid, Queen’s second manager) but his accent roams around both sides of the North Channel. So that’s two and a half voices with Ulster intonation, which is two and a half more than the average feature film not actually set there.

And speaking of accents, Rami Malek (from Los Angeles) does a super job of catching Freddy Mercury’s distinctive voice both speaking and singing. If anything he slightly underplays the poshness that the real Freddy Mercury affected - watch this pre-Live Aid interview to see what I mean:



I couldn’t help but think of two other great adaptations of Queen. First, the Superbowl performance of We Will Rock You, advertising Pepsi through Beyoncé, Pink and Britney Spears:



And the best of David Armand’s mimes (apart from “Torn”), his interpretation of Don’t Stop Me Now through interpretative dance:



The critics have panned the film, and then in some cases admitted that people are going to see it anyway. Of course it has its flaws - a lot of the cliches were done at least as well thirty-five years ago by Spın̈al Tap, the year before Live Aid, and some of the scenes sit a bit clunkily. But those of you who actally are old enough to remember Live Aid will probably enjoy it a lot, and even those of you who weren’t may find you too have something in your eye at the end.

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