Bohemian Rhapsody is a 134-minute chronicle of the formative years of Queen, and a loosely based bio on the late Freddie Mercury. It is directed by Brian Singer and stars Ramie Malek, Lucy Boynton and Gwilym Lee.
First Thoughts …
It’s all the greatest hits of Queen … how can you not love this. The music is, well … it is pure unbridled joy. It is impossible not to at least nod your head and, for most of us, the urge to stomp and clap along was overwhelming. This movie is a soundtrack to your favourite music, so it’s hard not to let go and enjoy yourself.
A Closer Look …
Once you look past the glitter and power anthems and take a look at the movie itself, well, it is a very-sanitized version of the Queen saga. The “movie” has large omissions and takes a lot of freedom with timelines, persons and events. I put the word movie in quotes because this is barely a movie. The writers and director seemed, either rightly or wrongly, to take the stand of How can we get to the next song as fast as possible, and often skip major events, or give cookie-cutter resolutions in order to throw the timeline ahead another four or five years?
This movie is not a biography or historically accurate, per se. I will take a moment and give you a few examples of where they might have veered off from history in favour of sculpting a kinder narrative.
Right off the bat, Freddie Mercury did not audition in the parking lot to Roger Taylor and Brian May (they were already old friends who had played together for some time). When the lead singer of Smile quit, Taylor, Mercury and May opted to come together as a new band.
The movie also portrays Freddie Mercury in a poor light, for working on a solo album and leaving the band for a time, but this was common practice for Queen (Brian May and Roger Taylor had both already put out solo albums before Freddy began working on his).
Last but not least, the movie makes a big deal of Freddie’s HIV diagnosis, right before the famous 1985 Live Aid Concert. This was likely done to give the movie the feeling of a victorious climax. This works well, cinematically, pinning everything the band has on this concert and showing them as underdogs trying to make a comeback. Unfortunately, it’s not true … the band wasn’t on hiatus; they didn’t need a comeback; they never really left. Queen had been on tour, leading right up to Live Aid, and was not “rusty.” Also, according to multiple sources, the diagnosis of HIV didn’t occur until almost a year later, and the band didn’t find out until ’87 or ’88.
Now, some might think that this is a barrier to enjoying the movie, but honestly … it’s not. Ramie Malek gives an outstanding performance as Freddie Mercury, going above and beyond to capture the late singer’s unique stage appeal; and, as stated already, the music is phenomenal. If you are a Queen fan, or just a music lover, in general, it is certainly worth heading down to the local theatre and checking it out.
This movie gets a three-out-of-five broken mic stands.