Bohemian Rhapsody Film Review
The critics have given Bohemian Rhapsody reviews that demonstrate their knowledge of Freddie, Queen, the directors, producers, production history, and cast.
The critics have given Bohemian Rhapsody reviews that demonstrate their knowledge of Freddie, Queen, the directors, producers, production history, and cast. Their views, as expected, have been less than glowing. The film takes liberties with the timeline; for me that’s fine. It’s not a documentary, it’s a movie – to give a flavour of its subject and to make it all bigger, bolder, and better than life. Maybe because of this, or perhaps in spite of it, audiences just love it. And some have said it makes them like the music even more. I’m with them.
Rami Malek is superb as Freddie Mercury. He conveys Freddie’s mix of vulnerability and confidence as equally strong parts of his personality. His cockiness is nuanced and feels real, so real that if Malek is now working on his Oscar speech for next year it would not be unexpected.
He has the Freddie mannerisms, walk, stance, dance moves, speech patterns, and voice perfected.
The film moves swiftly through the history of Queen from its beginnings as student band Smile with an astrophysicist (Brian May), dentist (Roger Taylor), and electrical engineer (John Deacon) – who, losing their lead singer, have a fortunate meeting with Freddie in a pub carpark. They tell him he can’t join the band with teeth like his. But when he opens his mouth and sings their songs they realise he is going to be good for them. He tells them that it’s because he has four extra incisors that he has an extraordinary vocal range. The new line up is set. Freddie, the art student has found himself a new “family”. His real family is not entirely supportive but, like so many immigrants, he has something to prove.
Freddie is a Parsi boy born in Zanzibar to a Zoroastrian family. He wants more than to be a baggage handler at Heathrow. He is a fan of Smile and follows them around various uni gigs, and it is at one of these that he has his fateful carpark meeting. Through following the band he also meets Mary, his “Love of my Life” muse. He proposes to her – although they both know soon enough he is bisexual or gay. However, they remain friends for life.It is a rare rock music biopic that is able to use so much of the band’s music, probably because Brian May and Roger Taylor were executive producers. Their involvement is also likely to have given them great portrayals. Gwilym Lee as May was a superb look-alike and had his spirit as well.
One of the standouts of the biopic was the focus on how the band actually made their music. Combining the writing and playing with the changes and adaptations and perfecting the sound, it gave real insight into the life of professional music making. It also gave us a peek at the people behind the band – the agents, lawyers, music execs, and everyone needed to make them successful.
Freddie’s descent into drugs and the party scene that was encouraged by his tour manager and sometime lover Paul Prenter was a scenario so familiar to all music bios, sadly. That he was rescued and brought back to the people who loved him was a happy ending, of sorts.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen more Freddie in his time away from the band, as well as a little of the collaborations – with David Bowie, Montserrat Caballe, and Michael Jackson who sang so poignantly with him “There must be more to life than this”. His two solo albums were omitted from this story, or at least this soundtrack. Some of the later songs, while not as big as the Queen anthems, would have given Freddie more of the star turn I believe he deserved here.
My favourite scene is in Rio when Queen is playing to a stadium audience. Freddie is telling the story about how the band didn’t know if the audience would understand a word they were singing; then when he sits at the piano to play “Love of My Life”, I choked up. I have always thought it would be the most wonderful talent for anyone to have – that they can create something that translates across language and culture to connect with other people – and songwriting is that unique skill. This scene shows that skill at its peak.
The band focuses on this audience participation and creates songs for that purpose – “Radio Ga-Ga”, “We Will Rock You”, and “We are the Champions”. After seeing the creation of the stomping and clapping rhythms behind these songs, they seem to make more sense.
The re-creation of Live Aid is terrific and it alone is worth seeing the film for. It has new footage re-creating the band’s performance and combines it with old footage of the crowd. This concert of 72,000 concert goers in Wembley was broadcast to an estimated 1.9 billion people worldwide. Queen’s 20-minute performance has been voted by many to be the greatest life performance in the history of rock. All the band members capture perfectly the pre-performance nerves as they step onto this stage. And as the final scene in the movie it leaves you with chills, a tear, and a longing to see the full concert footage from Live Aid.
I was a fan before the film, and I’m slightly more of a fan now and I’m going to watch out for this incredible cast in the future. They truly portrayed their subjects to perfection. Watch out for Mike Myers as a record exec – if you remember him from Wayne’s World, it will bring a smile.