The band Queen is iconic, and its lead singer, Freddie Mercury, is an icon that has outlived his unfortunately short life.
This biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, has the nearly impossible task of making a film about this band and this man that not only lives up to these two monumental figures of music history but also humanizes them. In a way, this film has a lot to live up to, and one could argue that it was set up to fail. Even though the film is enjoyable, the acting is beautiful, and the music is as pure as ever, the film itself did not hold up to its nearly impossible task of immortalizing a man and a band that is already immortal.
I grew up listening to Queen – thanks to both of my parents who will forever be stuck in the 70s and 80s, musically speaking. Though I was born a year after Freddie Mercury’s untimely death and was never able to experience Freddie’s showmanship live, I still feel some sort of kinship with him through the music that flood the speakers in my house, my car, and my headphones. There is something pure in his performances – like every musical note and lyric was life or death. There is a sadness in his singing that on some level, I relate to and find solace in.
That emotional connection is what I was looking for when I walked into the theater to see this film.
And, on that front, the film delivers. Rami Malek, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, and Gwilym Lee, who lend themselves to play Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, and Brian May, respectively, all did a wonderful job stepping into their roles and connecting with each other and the audience. In fact, in an interview, the real Brian May and Roger Taylor noted that when they were watching edits of the film (they were both producers on the project), they sometimes had to catch themselves and remember that it wasn’t actually them on screen. The actors did a great job of characterizing these people in both mannerisms and vocal cues as well, which helps to immerse the audience into the film.
The other thing that I appreciate about this film is that it shows Freddie Mercury and the other band members as true musicians. With Freddie in particular, I think there is a tendency to characterize him for his life outside the band, so as a fan, I enjoyed watching a film that showed his true artistry and talent. The sequence of the creation of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is everything I could possibly have wanted from a rock biopic. It depicts the initial suspicion of the “operatic sequence,” the struggle with getting the correct high note for the “Galileo” sequence, and the ultimate ecstasy when the band comes together to create this epic, six-minute song. Immediately following this is a classic scene in which the record label doesn’t want to take a chance on the song, and the artists walk.
However, critics have been quick to mention that the film seems a bit like a sterilized version of the truth. In all honesty, I don’t care if it is a sterilized version of the truth because it’s a movie. I don’t go into a movie, even one that claims to be “based on a true story,” with the notion that everything in the movie is going to be exactly how it happened in real life. If that were the case, then what would be the point of going to see the movie? You could just read about it or watch a documentary about it.
The whole point of a fictional portrayal of real events is to entertain its audience, and this film does. Do I think it’s the best film in the history of the universe? No. But, is it entertaining and larger-than-life? Absolutely. Which, in my opinion, is an honest portrayal of a band known for its showmanship, entertainment, and innovation.