Spoilers included below.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a euphonious biopic of the band Queen, focusing primarily on the lead-singer, Freddie Mercury. Directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men), the film brings to life many of Queen’s hits, following their journey from conception of the band through to their iconic performance at Live Aid.
What follows is a review of different aspects of the film that stood out – all components of what made this film an enjoyable showcase of Queen and Freddie Mercury’s musical history.
The very first thing that struck me in the opening scene was the use of an offensive racial slur. This was the first line uttered in the film, and it was directed at Freddie Mercury. It was a very effective way to reflect the racism that Freddie faced growing up, and it helped to set the tone of what it was like for people of similar heritage during that time period. The word was dropped later on in the film, and I recall everyone in the theatre gasping. It was interesting to me how a single word could be so powerful in a film filled with powerful music. This is a testament to the script writing and the decision to include this word when it could so easily have been left out.
Rami Malek truly did an amazing job as Freddie Mercury. The acting throughout the biopic, for all main characters, was superb. The cast for Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) were incredibly well-selected. Aligning the cast so closely with the band members was crucial to the suspension of disbelief.
Similar to A Star is Born, this wasn’t a musical in the sense that people sung their conversations. The soundtrack, in a manner of speaking, of Bohemian Rhapsody wasn’t intrusive and didn’t seem out of place – it flowed naturally with the narrative and complimented the story. It helped convey the history of the band and gave Queen fans a reason to cheer and further connect with the characters.
Obviously one of the most important things to get right was the representation of Freddie Mercury. 20th Century Fox was off to a good start casting Rami Malek, who was near lookalike to Freddie Mercury anyways. The addition of the fake teeth and the training he had to master Freddie’s movements and stage presence finished the look.
One thing I thought was important that they mention was the background of Freddie’s family and their story of how they fled to Britain during the Zanzibar Revolution. (This is also a very pointed inclusion with the controversy surrounding Brexit.) I wish they had gone slightly more in-depth about this, but it’s something I’m glad was brought to the audience’s attention.
The tempo of the film was great, if a slightly inaccurate (more on that later). The music helped a lot, crossing time bridges and for those very familiar with Queen’s albums, exemplifying the band’s progress. Time jumps seemed natural – reflected very well with Mary’s age progression and Freddie’s hair styles. The lower thirds with dates was helpful to those a little less familiar, and was impactful for the build-up to Live Aid.
Of course, with every biographical movie comes some creative license. Many critics have complained that there were so many inaccuracies in Bohemian Rhapsody, but for the most part these were done to help with story flow and character arcs. Here are a few notable liberties the filmmakers took:
- The band’s formation wasn’t that simple
- Queen never split up
- Other members of the band created and released solo albums
- Freddie Mercury didn’t officially find out that he was diagnosed with AIDS until after Live-Aid.
- Freddie Mercury’s last concert was not Live-Aid (although they didn’t explicitly show this in the film, it was implied).
The ending of the film was a little unrealistic, considering Freddie found his long-lost love, made up with his family, and performed at Live Aid all on the same day, but I’m willing to forgive the impracticality. It was nicely written to tie-up all the loose plot lines and character arcs in a nice little bow, which isn’t how real-life works, fair, but from a scriptwriting perspective this was acceptable.
One thing I am very glad was not included in the film was the death of Freddie Mercury. I could see how the film may have progressed to include this in the falling action after Live-Aid. It would have been emotionally impactful, but very difficult to portray without being gratuitous. Wrapping up the film with a nearly identical representation of Live-Aid was impactful and uplifting, and a better representation of Queen’s legacy.