“Is This The Real Life... is it just Fantasy?” Review of Bohemian Rhapsody

I finally made my way to Cineplex at the Avalon Mall to see Bohemian Rhapsody; the biopic so many of us have been waiting for. I was very wary about what I was about to see after hearing so many mixed reviews. Luckily, most of my worries melted away, and I was able to form my own opinion of Bohemian Rhapsody

Overview

For two hours, audiences are taken on a rollercoaster of the trials and tribulations of the life of Queen, a rock and roll band from London, England, specifically the band’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, an immigrant from Zanzibar. The movie takes audiences through the creation of the band (which is sped up quite a bit in the film), their first records, all the way to their legendary Live Aid performance. We go into the studio and watch the band create their famous album, A Night at the Opera, and of course, their hit song “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Highlights

Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury is absolutely out of this world. In Bohemian Rhapsody, not only do we see Freddie transform and grow, but we watch Malek do the same. It is truly an inspiring thing to watch and witness. I often times found myself getting lost in his performance, and literally cheering him on in the silliest of scenes. His voice was incredible and paid a good tribute to Mercury’s incredible four-octave range. I also found myself at times looking at Malek on screen and seeing an uncanny resemblance to Prince… so maybe there’s another biopic in his future? Regardless, there is no surprise that Malek is nominated for a Golden Globe, and the work he put into the role certainly shows.

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This goes for the boys who play the rest of the band as well. Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee as Brian May and Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon gave quality performances all the way through. This includes acting, singing, and playing music. Every aspect of their characters was established and perfected. I thought Hardy was an incredible choice for Roger, not only through appearance but also through the styling of the character. All of these bandmates did their research, and it sure paid off.

I have to also recognize Bryan Singer, director of this film, for blending creating a perfect visual for the audience. The movie popped in colour, and stayed true to the timing of the ’70s and ’80s. Every visual aspect of the film was precise and accurate, and kept me in the movie throughout. This includes the recreation of the amazing Live Aid performance, that they copied movement for movement, word for word in the movie. Watching the boys recreate the performance was incredible, and knowing that that scene was the first thing they filmed, blows me away.

Issues

I learned after the movie, that Mercury’s bandmates had a lot of input in this movie. This made me wonder how the film really was. I found there were many scenes where Mercury portrayed as a dramatic diva, even though he has been known to be on the quieter side. There was also a lot of fighting between himself, and the boys, Taylor especially. The blow-up that made me the most confused was when the band broke up after Mercury took his solo deal. In actuality, the band never broke up, and were not estranged. Instead, they took a break for a few years after due to burnout. They were all still friends, and all still supported one another, and even worked on a project over these years that they were on the break.

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There also was the issue of Mercury’s discovery of his diagnosis with Aids. In real life, Mercury did not know he had Aids before the Live Aid performance, and he never told his bandmates that he had the disease until just before his death. A possible reason for this is to give the movie a feel-good ending of the band coming back together and supporting Mercury in his illness before the Live Aid performance. While it isn’t correct, it is something that can be looked over, and I am very glad they even included his illness because there were early talks of it not being in the movie at all.

I was upset about how Bohemian Rhapsody depicted sexuality. It seemed focused on his transition from a straight man, into a gay man, when in actuality, Mercury’s sexuality was never black and white. For example, in the movie, once Mercury and Austin divorced, it only shows Mercury with male sexual partners. Mercury was known to have a fluid sexuality, and was even labeled bisexual before it was even a commonly used term. This could have been to make a clearer point about his sexuality and how he contracted Aids, but it seems a bit unfair given his fluidity.

A last big point that made me a bit… uncomfortable was the fact that the movie made it seem like Queen “saved” the Live Aid performance. In the movie, we see the Live Aid call room, and it shows that they are making no money at all until Queen comes on stage and the phones go off the hooks. This, of course, as many people know, is not true. This was confusing, and honestly somewhat weird. While Queen’s performance kicked major ass, it did not save Live Aid.

Final Thoughts

Once Bohemian Rhapsody was over, I walked out of that movie theatre with a smile on my face. I have always been a fan of Queen, and their music has stayed with me throughout my entire life. Besides the fact I am a junkie for all music from the ’70s and ’80s, Queen is different in a sense that even as kids, we knew who Queen was. Singing “We Will Rock You” in the gymnasium of our school, doing that classic “stomp, stomp, clap” rhythm that I have known since I was five. Queen is more than just a rock band from the ’70s and I think this movie shows that and creates an all-new fan base for the band. 

Biopics are a hard sell no matter what way they are done. In the end, they try to squeeze up to thirty years of history and events into a two-hour movie. Sometimes, things have to be adjusted and cleaned up. If you go to see the magic that is Bohemian Rhapsody, which I highly recommend you do, remember to take all of that into account, but also watch the boys on screen portray one of the most revolutionary rock bands in history, and fall in love with them all over again.

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