Review: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is royal tribute to Queen

The songs you love and the story behind it--this movie tells the raw and inspiring story of Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury

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The film depicts Queen's performance at Live Aid, one of the most historic moments in rock and roll.
The film depicts Queen's performance at Live Aid, one of the most historic moments in rock and roll.

Bohemian Rhapsody: we all know the song, but not the story. The musical biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” is determined to change that. Full of rock and roll as well as heart and soul, movie chronicles the story and music of British rock band Queen and the life of eccentric lead singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek).

A perfect combination of love, loneliness, sexuality and tragedy, the film follows the meteoric rise of the band through its iconic songs and unconventional sound. The film was released on Nov. 2, 2018, and is directed by Brian Singer and Dexter Fletcher.

The film begins in 1970, introducing us to Freddie’s pre-Queen identity Farrokh Bulsara, an Indian-British Parsi college student and baggage handler at Heathrow Airport. Against his stern father’s wishes, Farrokh goes out at night to watch a local band named Smile perform at a nightclub. When the show concludes, Farrokh sets out to find the band backstage. Along the way, he meets Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) who subsequently becomes his fiancé and lifelong companion. Freddie finds Smile guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) behind the nightclub and offers to replace their lead singer, who had quit earlier that night. Add bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello), and Queen as we know it is born.

Fast forward a few years and, Farrokh, having fully embraced the rock and roll lifestyle, is now the iconic and outlandish Freddie Mercury. Queen continues to attain unparalleled success as it records its fourth album, A Night at the Opera. With the release of this album and the smash hit “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the band ultimately lands a world tour. When Freddie returns home to Mary, they break off the engagement when Freddie comes out as bisexual.

The rest of the film follows Freddie as he begins to surround himself with dark influences, and ultimately shuns Queen to pursue his solo career. After suffering without the rest of the band and being diagnosed with AIDs, the flamboyant frontman reunites with the group just in time for the benefit concert Live Aid, where he leads the band in one of the greatest performances in rock music history.  

This movie will transport you back to the golden age of rock and roll and make you feel as though you are truly at a rock concert. From “Bohemian Rhapsody” to “We Are the Champions” to “Under Pressure”, it is impossible not to sing along and be fully immersed in all things Queen. The use of original recordings and live-action shots throughout the movie give life to the story of Queen and their revolutionary sound and message. It is impeccably raw and brilliantly shows what made Freddie Mercury a true entertainer.

I was initially shocked by the casting choice of Freddie — I had only ever seen Rami Malek in the American TV series Mr. Robot, where he plays an antisocial computer engineer, the antithesis of the lively Freddie Mercury.

However, after seeing the film, I can confidently say that Rami Malek delivered an outstanding performance in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” evidenced by his win of Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture at this year’s Golden Globe Awards. Not only did Malek have to learn how to sing and dance, but he also had to perfect a British accent while wearing fake teeth to match Freddie’s iconic overbite. No one could have honored Freddie and his vibrant spirit in a more perfect way.

Another part of the film that amazed me was each actor’s uncanny resemblance to the real people in the band. This was especially true for Gwilym Lee, who looked exactly like his character, Brian May, Queen’s lead guitarist.

The only aspect of this film that slightly disappointed me was how it did not always stay faithful to real life. If you are a Queen fan, you will see the misrepresentation of some of the facts right away. For example, Freddie was not conveniently at a Smile performance the same night their lead singer quit. The movie makes it seem as though the formation of Queen was controlled by some higher power. In reality, Freddie was actually good friends with the band’s previous vocalist, Tim Staffell. Not only that, but Freddie was introduced to Brian and Roger through Tim, ran a flea market with Roger, and even lived with his future bandmates in London for a brief time.

Additionally, Queen never even split up. The real story is far less cliché, as real life often is. After a very short break in early 1983, Queen was together right up to their Live Aid performance in 1985. But it’s not a documentary and it is not meant to be one. So in the film’s defense, the full truth does not always make for the most compelling story and most successful blockbuster. 

I think everyone should see this movie — not just for the music, but also for the humanity and artistry. Freddie Mercury was a man with insecurities, doubts and demons. However, he was also a man of exceptional talent who challenged convention to become one of the most acclaimed artists on the planet. It is important to see movies that show that it is possible to combat personal struggles and become a stronger person because of them.

By watching this movie, viewers will develop an understanding of an extraordinary band led by a man who gave the world extraordinary music. Freddie Mercury once said, “I won’t be a rockstar. I will be a legend,” and I think he was right.  

Bohemian Rhapsody is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language. It is currently playing in theaters, including AMC and ArcLight.

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