This reviews contains spoilers for the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Queen singer Freddie Mercury didn’t have the best life, but he certainly had a glamorous and flamboyant one. In “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a biopic released Nov. 2, Mercury’s life and journey to the top of the charts with Queen is portrayed wonderfully, might I add, by Rami Malek (see “Mr. Robot”).
Falling just short of two and a half hours, the film seems much more a Mercury biopic than a Queen one, as was perhaps expected. This isn’t entirely disappointing, as the journey through Mercury’s life is certainly an interesting one. It begins with with the moment he first met fellow bandmates Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello). Malek plays Mercury with the sort of awkwardness he’s known for, yet it seems authentic to the shy man Mercury was seen as in interviews throughout his life. It continues on to show Mercury wowing crowds with the flamboyant showmanship the way that only he could and their rise from being a small town band playing at pubs to international stardom.
The film touches on the sad parts of his life, as well — including his tumultuous relationship with longtime girlfriend and partner, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). When the trailer first dropped, the film was accused of ‘straight washing,’ or only depicting Mercury as heterosexual, when he is well-known as a bisexual man. This is fortunately not the case, as Mercury comes out to Austin as bisexual within the film.
Mercury and Austin broke up after he felt he wanted to pursue men. He often still notes her as the love of his life, even after their breakup, and is shown writing their song “Love of My Life” for her. He is also depicted as having relationships with men, including Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), Mercury’s manager and occasional lover. Leech is shown as a villain in the film, betraying and outing Mercury, because all films must have a villain. This is somewhat true to life, yet the real man is a little less sinister than his portrayal — instead of outing him on television, as was seen in the movie, Prenter sold a story to the tabloid The Sun. It also shows Mercury’s relationship with partner Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker) who he remained with until Mercury’s death from AIDS in 1991.
The saddest part of the film is towards the end, where the audience sees Mercury struggle with receiving and sharing the news of having AIDS and dealing with the health problems that came with it. The film ends before the death of Mercury -- still, his decline is upsetting to see, even though it was necessary to tell his story.
There is some divergence with reality throughout the film, but not much. Most notably, however, the film shows Mercury’s split from the band prior to the Live Aid concert and his return to play with them for it. In reality, this didn’t happen, as the band never had such a dramatic split — instead taking a mutual break when they felt burnt out from touring for a decade together.
As only a casual fan of Queen, as I feel most of us are, I didn’t notice this mistake and the occasional timing errors spread throughout, so it didn’t bother me. I’m positive more devoted fans will see this and fume about it, especially because members Brian May and Roger Taylor worked with the film to make it as accurate to their lives as they could. However, I understand how a movie must work — the director felt including this was the best way to dramatize the end of the film, which ended with the iconic Live Aid performance.
The only complaint I had with the film was that I felt the pacing was a little rushed. In the beginning and into the middle it felt as if they wanted to speed along, but I assume this is to do with them wanting to spend extensive time at the end to show the Live Aid performance Queen are most well-known for. Or perhaps it was due to the change of directors after the firing of Brian Singer. Besides that, I felt the film did a fantastic job of doing what a biopic should — informing me of details I hadn’t known of Mercury’s life and the rise of Queen, and leaving me with a greater appreciation of the band and their music, knowing the stories behind them.
Here’s some tidbits I learned: Mercury had an obsession with cats, and would call home while on tour and ask to speak with the many that he had. He also had extra teeth that he didn’t remove in fear of changing his sound and range. This led Malek to have to wear and learn how to speak with fake teeth in his mouth, on top of learning how to sing and speak in a British accent. This, along with how adeptly he learned and showcased the choreography that Mercury is known for, left me especially impressed with the performance by Malek.
Fans young and old will appreciate “Bohemian Rhapsody.” As someone who enjoys music and a good, entertaining film, I really enjoyed it. If some of the older, more devoted fans can ignore some of the minor discrepancies, I’m sure they too could enjoy it for what it was — a touching biopic that entertains and reminds all of the greatest hits of Queen.
Edited by Siena DeBolt | firstname.lastname@example.org