Bohemian Rhapsody is a celebration of Queen’s music featuring a loving tribute to Freddie Mercury. Don’t expect a documentary or a traditional biography. This is a perfectly cast love letter to Queen fans around the world. And if you ever liked any Queen songs, you’ll enjoy this movie. I give it two thumbs up!
(Really) Long Review
Spoilers below the trailer
The first Queen song I ever heard was “Another One Bites the Dust.” I was 9 and my Mormon best friend warned me that we shouldn’t listen to it because it was about drugs. Not being one to just blindly ban music, I listened carefully to the lyrics and decided that it was about gangsters, and the more I listened, the more I liked it. How could something with such a slick bass line be bad?
I wouldn’t consider myself a Queen fan, but Queen was definitely part of the soundtrack of my life. I know most of the songs, but they are interspersed among Big-Hair-Bands of the 1980s, the oldies played by 94.5 KATS FM, the new and shiny videos on MTV back in the day when they played music 24/7, and British New Wave Bands.
Queen showed up again at my high school pep rallies. Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Stomp. Stomp. Clap. As we shook the bleachers, we solemnly vowed to rock our opponents. And when we won, we were the champions with no time for losers. We were the champions of the world!
It was Wayne’s World that finally brought “Bohemian Rhapsody” into my consciousness.
Even now, when I finish a big project, I play “We are the Champions!” and march around the living room with my fists in the air. When I’m frustrated and need some inspiration, “I Want to Break Free!” When a series of projects gets finished, “Another One Bites the Dust.”
I saw Bohemian Rhapsody on opening night. It wasn’t my plan, it just worked out that way. Almost every Israeli I’ve spoken to is a big Queen fan, which explains why the movie is playing on three screens in one theater.
This movie is a celebration of Queen’s music and a way to introduce it to a new generation of fans. Interspersed with the story of the music is the story of Freddie Mercury, a complex person who was much more than the stage persona. The movie is called Bohemian Rhapsody and when you put all the pieces together you can understand why.
Definition of rhapsody
4: a musical composition of irregular form having an improvisatory character
Every role in this film is perfectly cast. Rami Malek plays Freddie – well, he doesn’t just play him, he becomes him. Brian May’s wife came on set and was apparently shocked by how much Gwilym Lee looked like Brian at that age. Joe Mazzello called his mother to confirm his parentage because he looked so much like John Deacon. And Roger Taylor could be Ben Hardy’s uncle.
In case you’re confused, the bottom picture is from the film. 🙂
Somewhere along the way, you are perfectly cast in the film too. You aren’t an observer of the film, you’re a participant in the story. Two notes and one chord in, you know the song. You laugh along with the band and their jokes. You hang out at the parties. You’re in the audience when the spectacle of Queen is on stage.
More than that, we are with Freddie at his highs and his lows. The saddest moment in the film, and one of the most powerful, is when Freddie gets his diagnosis. He goes alone to the clinic and we see the doctor reflected in Freddie’s mirrored sunglasses. We don’t hear what he’s saying, but we know. And then the reflection shows the floor. That split second was probably more devastating than hearing the diagnosis and seeing a reaction. As Freddie walks out, a fan – obviously sick – recognizes him and softly sings: “Ey Oh!” And Freddie answers back: “Ey Oh!” He was alone and yet we were all there with him.
Superfans will rankle at the fact that Freddie didn’t actually get his diagnosis until 1987 and this is meant to be 1985. Superfans might be annoyed by many details in this movie. (Rami’s eyes aren’t brown!)
But we have to acknowledge that this movie is not a lot of things.
It’s not a Hero’s Journey. Disney is the master for heroes on a journey. Freddie was Freddie and nothing more or less.
It’s not a documentary. There’s plenty of footage on Youtube if you want that.
It’s not a biography. Freddie didn’t write all the songs and he wasn’t alone in the band. He was larger than life on stage, but this story is not exactly about him. He is interwoven in the music.
It’s not a story of coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation, or redemption, or a son finally earning the approval of his father. It’s all there, but none of that is the story.
It’s not a reenactment of a rock-and-roll lifestyle.
(Attention parents who want to share their love of Queen with their kids: It has a PG-13 rating; much of the darkness and hedonism is softened. There are hints, though.)
It’s not a finely crafted, manicured storyline. (See the definition of rhapsody above.) It’s kind of a mess that has a more or less linear timeline. Kind-of like life. And that’s what makes it feel real.
It’s not … well, true. Lots of things are accurate to the smallest detail, but a lot of things are written off to “poetic license.” If anyone believes that in the same afternoon Freddie found his final life partner after visiting every Jim Hutton in the whole London telephone book, introduced him to his family, reconciled with his father, and then played Live Aid, well, clearly that person lives in an awesome fantasyland.
The Live Aid concert was filmed note for note, step for step. Watching the Live Aid footage afterwards, I was stunned at how accurate it was.
Mike Myers is in the movie playing the record exec refusing to promote “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Says he: “No one will ever be driving in their car banging their heads to this song.” HA!
In the press interviews, it’s clear that all the actors took their roles extremely seriously and will carry their characters with them. This was a special experience for them and you see it on the screen, and more importantly, you feel it. The actors also carry the burden of responsibility for the message that they want the movie to send:
Be who you are.
Embrace all your idiosyncrasies and imperfections.
You are not alone.
In answer to the question: Is this a good movie?
The answer is a resounding YES.
If a movie stays with you for days afterwards, if you are scouring the internet looking for more and more and more information, if you find yourself suddenly a Queen superfan, then there’s no question it’s a good movie.