As someone who grew up listening to Queen songs in the car with my family, when I saw the trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody, I was really excited to see it. Although the movie didn’t receive the most rave reviews: the New York Times wrote a review saying “Bohemian Rhapsody’ Review: Another One Bites the Dust”, I disagree, and I loved it so much that I even went to see it again over Thanksgiving break.
Bohemian Rhapsody outlines the extraordinary Freddie Mercury (played by Rami Malek) and his relationships between his bandmates and Mary Austin, his wife and then life long friend. The beginning of the film shows the start of the Live Aid concert and then flashes back to London around 20 years prior where a young Farrokh Bulsara gets his start and joins a band of college students who were in need of a new lead singer.
The band soars to international fame in a matter of years and record hit after hit as their lives begin to be changed by the glitz and glamour of the rock and roll scene.
With these life changes come parties and drugs and it becomes apparent that Freddie is not completely straight. Although he becomes engaged to Mary Austin, his onscreen lover played by Lucy Boynton, it is clear to Mary that Mercury is bisexual if not completely gay. One of the film’s most emotional scenes is when Mercury admits to being gay, and to his complex feelings for Mary. “I want you in my life,” he tells her. “Why?” she replies.
The movie doesn’t only focus on Mercury however, and one of my favorite scenes is when the four band members are recording “Bohemian Rhapsody” in a studio on a distant farm. The audience gets to witness Mercury write the lyrics as he sits alone at a piano in a farm house and his raw emotions and talent are on full display. Malek does a phenomenal job embodying Freddie which is no easy task. Then, Queen works together in a heart warming and silly scene recording their respective sections of the hit song.
Many music biopics outline the same story as Bohemian Rhapsody: a singer starts out as no one, finds success and love, struggles with drugs sexual identity, sudden fame, loses said fame and or band breaks up and then makes an epic comeback. Each concert that the movie depicts really feels like a rock concert. From a wild audience, to spot on costumes, and foot stomping music. I really felt like I was at a Queen concert with the rest of the people in the movie theater.
Yet what sets this film apart is the breathtaking cinematography, great attention to the detail of costume and dealing with the sometimes complex issues regarding sexuality. The movie not only conveys the band dynamics and how their comradery and natural talent intertwined, but also does a solid job portraying Mercury and his coming to terms with his homosexuality and eventually acknowledging his deadly diagnosis of AIDS, a disease that he refuses to be a poster boy for.
While the movie celebrates Queen and their music, it is Freddie Mercury who is the star of the show, as the movie shows how he defied stereotypes and shattered preconceived notions of what a rock star is, looks like and acts. The movie furthers the legacy of a band that acted like a family and who inspired dreamers, lovers, and those who felt like they didn’t belong.