Bohemian Rhapsody stars Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, and Joe Mazzello and was directed by Bryan Singer. It tells the story of the band Queen, with the bulk of its focus on frontman, Freddie Mercury, portrayed by Rami Malek. We start right at the inception of Queen as Freddie – then known as Farrokh Bulsara – joins the college band that would eventually become Queen.
The story progresses through major moments in the band’s history things like the recording of their first album and their first tour in the U.S. right up to their iconic 1985 Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium. Alongside the band’s progression, we also get a look at moments in Freddie’s life: everything from his relationship with Mary Austin all the way through his AIDS diagnosis. Is this the real life of Queen? Or is it just fantasy? I really like a lot of their music, but I’ve never actually considered myself to be a Queen fan per se. So, I can’t really comment on the factual accuracy of most of the film, but I have to say that I think I’m in the target audience sweet spot.
I like the hits, so watching the performances had me caught in a landslide and I know enough about the band to get by, but not so much to know if there were any major escapes from reality. Like I said, I’m in the perfect position for a film like this. Too big of a fan and you may be screaming at the filmmakers to open their eyes to the actual history of the band. Superfans of Queen may watch this film and look up to the skies and see the many alterations and sanitations of the true tale. On the other hand, too little of a fan and you might not care about the story at all. You may view Farrokh Bulsara as a poor boy with an extra set of incisors who doesn’t deserve any sympathy. His devil may care lifestyle may be a little too easy come, easy go for you to truly get invested in. The roller coaster of his life has periods that are a little high and some that are a little low, but if you don’t like the music at the very least, any way the winds of his life blew, it wouldn’t really matter to you. It would all just be an inconsequential tale about people you knew nothing about. Although Bohemian Rhapsody is a film about Queen, it is most certainly more of a Freddie Mercury story. As he reminds his mama early in the film, he just killed a man.
Not literally of course, but he put his metaphorical gun against Farrokh’s head, pulled his trigger, and made sure he was dead. An oh mama, at that point, life had just begun for Freddie Mercury. Sure, his father thought he had gone and thrown it all away, but ooh he didn’t mean to make his mama cry. He simply wanted to strike out on his own to be the lead singer of a band. He might not play bass, but if he wasn’t back by that time tomorrow, his mother, father, and sister should just carry on. Carry on as if nothing really mattered because he had made it big with Queen. Freddie Mercury is the type of character I would usually detest, but somehow his negative traits blend together with his positive ones to produce a person whose life I was actually invested in. He’s flamboyant, raucous, conceited, and magnetic. His interpersonal relationships are all over the place and manifest in the most complicated of ways. But as we all know, eventually his reckless lifestyle caught up with him.
Before he knew it, it was too late and his time had come. The sense of loneliness (despite being surrounded by people all the time) sent shivers down his spine and the drugs, alcohol, and virus had his body achin’ all the time. Even before his time was actually up, his own arrogance and inflated sense of self-worth forced him to say goodbye to everybody he once knew. He decided he had to go, to leave them all behind so that they could face the truth that he was what made Queen successful. But, ooh mama, it wasn’t too long before he realized his mistake. He didn’t want Queen to die, but he didn’t know how to begin to repair it. So in classic dramatic fashion, he stood in the pouring rain and was so low that he wished he’d never been born at all. The other three members of the band are definitely given a good deal of screen time, but I kinda wish a little more time was spent exploring their characters and roles in the band.
I honestly feel like I don’t know anything about them other than that the drummer was supposed to be a dentist and the guitarist was supposed to be an astrophysicist. But, I suppose that’s the point. Even when Queen was together, the other three members were always obscured, hidden behind a little silhouetto of a man named Mercury. Or was it Scaramouche? Scaramouche, up on stage doing the Fandango. But, it seemed to work for them and together they faced thunderbolts and lightning and situations that could be very very frightening. Me? I think some of my favorite sequences in this film were the ìbehind the scenesî looks into the development of their songs. The disco-inspired bass riff that brought the arguing band together for Another One Bites the Dust. The unusual and unorthodox recording methods they employed for their first album.
The desire for easier crowd-involvement that sparked the idea for the stomp-clapping of We Will Rock You. And, of course, the farm sequence for the recording of Bohemian Rhapsody. Galileo! Galileo. A startlingly comedic Galileo chicken. And still another. Again! Higher! As Roger Taylor asks during that scene, how many bloody Galileos did they need? Five. The answer is five Galileos and who would have figaroed it’d be so magnifico. Bohemian Rhapsody has always been a well-loved musical staple for my entire life, so it was interesting to see how broadly it was panned initially. It was just a poor song that nobody loved. A poor song that very few people even heard at first due to the three-minute radio standards of the time. It may have been viewed as a six minute operatic monstrosity at the time of its release, but I’m glad we of the future generations weren’t spared exposure to it.
Now I’ve been mostly discussing the positives of this film up until now. Even without the benefit (or detriment, as it may be) of knowledge of the ins and outs of the band, this film had a few problems. The style of the film was uniquely easy come, easy go and, unfortunately, some of it I can’t let go. But Bismillah! This film had some interesting stylistic choices. Let them go? Bismillah, sure I can let some go. The brightly colored tour location titles over freeze-frames of Freddie’s stage antics had a feel that was very much of the time.
Even the overlays of crossfaded spinning records during the band’s recording sessions gave it a bit of a late-70s documentary feel. But let it all go? Bismillah! No, I can’t let it all go. That crowd during Live Aid. Let it go? I will not let it go! The crowd was composed of distractingly poor CGI. Let it go? I absolutely will not let it go. For such an immensely grandiose finale otherwise without issue, those computer-generated hands and arms took me out of the moment. Let it go? Oh no no no no no no no. Oh mamma mia, mamma mia. Mamma mia, I cannot let it go. I haven’t noticed anybody else taking issue with the crowd, so maybe Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me. For me, it took an otherwise iconic re-creation and knocked it down a level. It stood out like a sore thumb, for me. It’s funny really.
CGI crowds are my biggest issue with this film; not the likely numerous inaccuracies with the story. While true fans of Queen may be upset that the filmmakers thought they could stone them with half-truths and spit in their eyes, I’m satisfied with the fictional biopic. Hardcore fans will likely be rubbed the wrong way by this film. Taking something they love and leaving it to die on screen. Oh baby, can’t do that to them, baby. In the theater they’ll decide that it’s too much to bear and they’ve just gotta get out. Just gotta get right out of there! The filmmakers may have initially intended for Bohemian Rhapsody to be a love letter to fans of Queen. But, I think they overlooked just how protective people get of their beloved pop culture. So this film trickles down to people like me instead.
People who like Queen alright, but who realize that nothing really matters. Anyone can see a documentary on Queen if they want straight facts. But for me, this is a dramatization. A fictionalization of real events and real people. Like any other biopic, musical or otherwise, some things are left out and some things are tweaked in the interest of the story. Some things may have even been invented for the movie. But that’s just what Bohemian Rhapsody is: a movie. And nothing really matters. At least nothing really matters to me, as the unintentional target audience. Oh well, any way the wind blows, I suppose. Alright, so let’s take a non-lyrical look at the pros and cons.
Pro number one has got to be the performances. Rami Malek especially just knocks it out of the park. He manages to capture the look, sound, and mannerisms of Freddie Mercury in a way that can’t be fully appreciated until you do a side by side comparison. Really ñ go look up some pictures or interviews and you’ll see what I mean. There’s even a video out there that has the real Live Aid performance playing side by side with this movie’s version and it’s amazing how close they are, right down to little details like Pepsi cups and arm gestures. The second pro is the fact that this is a very engaging film. It probably doesn’t hurt that it’s a movie about Queen, but I was invested in this one right from the start. And that’s coming from somebody who’s not that big of a Queen fan.
The story, the music, the pace it all just meshed really well for me and kept me engaged the whole way through. As far as cons go, I think I would’ve liked the film more if it wasn’t so Freddie-centric. Now I get it, he was the frontman and lead singer and he was extremely flamboyant and unique, so Queen itself was always pretty Freddie-centric. I just wish we got to know a bit more about the other band members and got some insight into how they viewed Freddie. My other big con is that CGI Live Aid crowd. I haven’t seen or read anybody else even mentioning it, so I think I must be solidly in the minority here, but I thought it was absolutely terrible. It immediately pulled me out of the moment, which was unfortunate cause it’s the big climactic finale of the film.
I understand that CGI was necessary to simulate the huge crowd, right? They’re not gonna get 72,000 extras for a concert scene. But when crowds in a game like Rock Band 4 move more realistically than those in film nominated for Best Picture, something’s wrong. I’m gonna give Bohemian Rhapsody 3.5 out of 5 paws. As a casual fan of the band, I found this to be a really enjoyable movie. I know it takes some liberties with the story, but there’s a reason it’s not a documentary, right? I would recommend Bohemian Rhapsody to music fans in general, but especially to casual or moderate fans of Queen. Huge Queen fans will like parts of this too, but I think you’ll end up finding yourself picking it apart more than enjoying it.
People who like the music, but maybe aren’t as familiar with the band itself will probably get the most all-around entertainment out of this one. If you liked Bohemian Rhapsody, I would recommend that you check out The Runaways. It’s another really well-made, entertaining music biopic that takes some liberties with its true story inspiration. The Runaways might not be as well-known as Queen, but I bet you know of a guitarist who goes by the name Joan Jett.
I also feel like I would be remiss not to recommend Wayne’s World. There’s a particularly iconic scene involving the song Bohemian Rhapsody in that film, but that scene that moment is actually directly alluded to in the film Bohemian Rhapsody in an especially satisfying meta way. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody? If so, what’d you think of it? I’m especially curious to know your personal connection with Queen and how that may have influenced your feelings on the movie. And number two: What’s your favorite Queen song? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.