Bohemian Rhapsody (dir.
Bryan Singer Dexter Fletcher, 2018) – In 1970, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon take the stage by storm with the formation of Queen.
Bohemian Rhapsody pays tribute not just to Freddie Mercury but Queen and their music, keeping the spirit of the legendary band alive.
Bohemian Rhapsody could have gone the obvious direction, massively drawing upon the darker recesses of Freddie Mercury’s arduous life. But he deserves better. Defined by much more than his personal tragedies, the Queen frontman was ultimately the legend who changed the lives of many with his immortal music and inspiring tenacity.
Writer Anthony McCarten and director Dexter Fletcher (shall we all refuse to acknowledge Singer) fortunately recognised this. While never avoiding Mercury’s struggle with the pressure of his celebrity and sexuality, they neither dwelt on nor exploited it. Instead, the limelight rightfully falls on his many triumphs, be it in his defiance against Queen’s detractors or his inspired penning of the titular magnum opus.
It is a deeply moving tribute, though not all chapters are truthful. Queen’s backstory was reduced to a serendipitous encounter, as was Mercury’s meeting of his long-term partners Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker) and Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). His short-lived solo career and breakaway from his band was grossly exaggerated as well.
Pedantic EMI producer Ray Foster (Mike Myers) was mostly fiction. And far from a reunion, Live Aid was the culmination of many months on tour. Such artistic license regrettably feels deceitful and incidentally, leaves the band’s wilder days behind. (We really wouldn’t mind seeing Mercury hang out with Princess Diana.)
But as a result, there is greater focus on their incredible music. This is of course the highlight. Seeing Queen come together and stomp forth brings about an indescribable euphoria for fans like myself, who have grown up with their enduring songs.
Immense moments are brilliantly re-imagined for the big screen, as we witness the gestation of to-be giant anthems and unseen studio sessions. Above all, the faithful recreation of the historic Live Aid concert turned out as both visually and aurally stirring.
Much and not enough is said about Rami Malek’s portrayal of the icon. The actor, with his heartfelt honesty, vanishes behind the real-world singer. From his outward flamboyance to private sensitivities, he embodies the spirit of Freddie Mercury entirely. In his search for a sense of belonging, the sincere performance strikes a chord with anyone who has ever shared Mercury’s dreams and strifes.
His band mates deserve every other praise left to give, their credibility extending far beyond looks and mannerisms. In large part due to this strong cast, Bohemian Rhapsody feels genuine as a whole. It captures the best of not just Freddie Mercury but his family, both by blood and by choice; they, who had helped him grow into the man that he was, unknowingly or otherwise.
At the end that we very well know, the respectful retelling of Mercury’s AIDS contraction never lets the disease define him. Instead, the layered biopic chooses to home in on some of the quartet’s most wondrous musical moments in grand scale, lending deeper meaning to their beautiful lyrics.
The relative optimism appears deliberate, and is welcome. In earnestly celebrating what made Queen who they were, and are, Bohemian Rhapsody truly ignites a spectacular kind of magic.