Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen, although mostly all about Freddie. It takes us through his journey starting just before his first meeting with the band members he would join with to form Queen right up to the Live Aid concert in 1985.
When I came out of the cinema immediately following the end of the movie, all I could think of was how great an experience it had been. I still feel that way now but on reflection, there are certain things that could have been done better which can be easily disregarded as you sit there pumped up, listening to Queen’s greatest hits.
As has been pointed out by almost everyone who has watched the film, and even the critics who don’t like it, Rami Malek shines in his biggest role in television and film to date, filling the shoes of Freddie Mercury. He has the pomp of Freddie when he performs, the confidence of Freddie in his own ability and yet also showcases the private, emotionally shut off Freddie.
Before seeing the film, I thought Freddie’s sexuality was an open and shut case, that he was a closet homosexual for most of his life. That’s why I was wary of being drawn into the relationship between himself and Mary Austin- I knew it would be a nice story but I also knew it wasn’t going to last. That didn’t make the love story between them any less touching and I was drawn in right at the moment where they essentially break it off. This scene muddies the waters as Freddie declares himself bisexual while Mary tells him he is gay. I know it was just actors in a movie but the chemistry between the two as their story was told makes me believe that Freddie was bi.
Despite my praise for Malek, there is no real big emotional scene where Freddie is conflicted, whether it is with his sexuality, his party lifestyle or with his bandmates. We don’t see Freddie come to terms with his sexuality, we don’t see him agonise over his love for Mary and his attraction to men. In that sense, we don’t see the full acting range from Malek who certainly has Freddie Mercury spot on. The only real hint comes when a man catches his eye and continues to look at him but that is the extent of his ‘change.’ Before you know it, we see Freddie partying night after night with lots of men.
One criticism I have seen from people is that Freddie’s life partner from Live Aid up until his death, Jim Hutton, is barely featured in the film. I can see why people might think this is a slight to Freddie, and Jim for that matter, but if that really is the correct timeframe from when Freddie and Jim started to see each other then there can’t have been too much else for the film to go. By this point, we’ve had the story of the band meeting up, the creation of hits like Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You and so on- covering Queen’s most iconic and unique songs. We’ve also had the story of band disputes and band reunions so what else was there to tell after Live Aid.
People say Jim Hutton was ignored but with most of Queen’s hits covered and with Live Aid being their last real iconic event, there can’t have been too much more to show except more Queen tours and perhaps a spot of dinner dates between Freddie and Jim so there had to be limited material left to work with before Freddie’s eventual death. People have also said that the film tries to shame Freddie for his lifestyle but the only glimpse I saw of that was when the media asked him about his lifestyle and reported on it, which I take it was a fair reflection of the media’s interest in his life and activities.
In terms of non-Queen fans, it offers a decent story filled with humour and plenty of ups and downs. Some of it seems a bit cheesy with lines along the lines of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody will never be a hit.’ While some critics at the time may have thought that, it seems too easy to have ‘the man who lost Queen’ say it to them before it went on to be a massive success. It reminds me of Titanic where every character has to mention how the ship is unsinkable and that everyone will be fine.
The film is certainly a must for Queen fans, at the very least you get to watch it in a cinema with the volume turned up loud as the music blasts through the speakers at you. Malek’s performance and that feeling that you are watching a Queen story mixed with a Queen concert of their greatest hits makes it an enjoyable experience that will leave the songs in your head for weeks.