Has there been a Bohemian Rhapsody since the Bohemian Rhapsody? I can’t think of a song since that’s turned music so soundly on its head. There’s no rock ballad like it. Queen would have been a formidable band with just that hit under their belts, but they churned them out. Every time I thought to myself, well they’ve covered all the good ones, what song could they possibly perform next? I would be hit again with a fave.
This movie made me realize that if I could pick one musical act, dead or alive, to see in concert, Queen would rank very high on my list (tied with Michael Jackson at the top). Even watching these, for lack of a better word, re-enactments, you could feel the energy of the crowd. Audiences loved Queen, and Queen loved them right back. While their music got them fame, money, and a spot in history, it was made for their fans. They wanted people stomping their feet, singing along, clapping their hands. Their music is immersive.
The best part of this movie for me was seeing Queen create together. When lead guitarist Brian May had the band stomp and clap and create the heartbeat of We Will Rock You; when the bass riff of Another One Bites the Dust shut down an argument between Freddie and Roger Taylor, Queen’s percussionist; when the noise that precursed Bohemian Rhapsody actually became music, we saw the true family that this band was. I have no idea how factual any of these events are, but they made for good movie fodder.
Sure, they argued and dealt with the typical lead singer drama that I assume any band has, but at the end of the day, they were essential to each other. No idea was too bizarre (except maybe I Love My Car) and no fight too insurmountable. It made me want to go out and form a band.
Plus, the actors who played Brian, Roger, and John aka Deacy were amazing. I was particularly captured by the hairstylings and fashion choices of Brian May, played by Gwylim Lee (who is smokin’ btdubs) and John Deacon, played by Joseph Mazzello (also wouldn’t kick him out of bed). I would kill to have such Louis XIV hair like Brian. And Deacy could be any of your friend’s dads in the 80s. Every side-eye look he gave made me giggle. Move over, Jim Halpert.
And then there’s Freddie Mercury, arguably one of the most interesting men of the last century. Rami Malek plays him with aplomb. Jarring teeth aside, every time he was in frame he was the focus. Rock legends become legends for a reason, and Malek was able to channel that power, insouciance, and bravado, while still managing to capture the softer side of Mercury that existed offstage. Oh, and you’d never know he’s lip-synching, which is the biggest feat of this movie, even more so than losing it’s director halfway through.
Malek is perfectly Mercurial and does him great justice, but the writers of this film…didn’t so much. The biggest criticism this film has faced is in the way it sugarcoated Freddie Mercury’s life. While the movie doesn’t deny that Freddie Mercury was gay, it kind of glossed over it. We see the aftermath of any debauchery that occurs. A glimpse of a shirtless man, the wreckage of a party without any of the glory. While it didn’t show much of the true reality at all, it served to show the sadder reality of Freddie Mercury’s life at that point: he was lonely and hated to be alone.
Any possibly controversial moment was handled with kid-gloves. It didn’t ruin the film for me, but it didn’t quite do their story justice. What it made me want to do is read a biography on this band and the lives of its members. I want to watch any and all documentaries made about these people. Bohemian Rhapsody served to intrigue me. My interest was merely piqued, not put to rest.
You’re Making Me Live
This movie felt like pure joy to me. The highs were unbelievably high. The soundtrack is killer (queen), obviously. It’s worth seeing in theaters because you truly feel like you’re in the crowd and Freddie Mercury is singing straight into your soul. Which is everyone’s dream, right?
No, it’s not perfect, and I’m sure it’s not perfectly accurate, but it’s perfectly enjoyable. You’ll laugh at the schtick of Mike Myers being cast as the record label executive who thinks the youth won’t head-bang in their cars to Bohemian Rhapsody. You’ll feel the gratitude that this band felt for their fans. You’ll dream to be as iconic as Freddie Mercury is. And most of all you won’t be able to stop listening to Queen. As David Edelstein said in his review for Vulture, “If you’re immune to this music, I don’t want to know you.” So head over to your nearest theater, try your hardest not to sing along to loudly (I very much failed at this), and feel the joy that Queen created with their music.
For now, feast your ears and eyes with this: