If you had a time machine, what band or singer would you see play live at their pinnacle? Respond with your answer in the comment section. I know most of you will respond with Barbara Streisand or Yanni or some shit because you’re all a bunch of Jay Leno’s, but for me, it has always been Queen. That’s why I was excited to see Bohemian Rhapsody. I wanted to get a feel for what being at one of their concert’s was really like – sadly, without the experience of being hammered drunk in the front row rocking a tuxedo t-shirt. Either way, I’m happy to report that the theatrics of Bohemian Rhapsody did not disappoint, but let’s take a closer look at where the film loses its way a bit and when it kicks fucken ass.
We first meet Farrokh Bulsara (Freddie Mercury’s Parsi birth name) when he’s 18, living in a flat with his parents in London. We can tell early on that he’s an eccentric, and he’s spending many of his teen nights frequenting local pubs as he’s drawn to the local music scene. It’s fun to see him meet his future Queen mates, but why couldn’t we see more of his youth? His sister later explains that he wasn’t really ‘born’ until he was 18, when his family moved to London from Zanzibar, but that’s a movie cop-out. It would’ve been nice to see how Freddie became that unconventional 18 year-old. In Walk the Line (starring Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash), we first meet Cash when he’s extremely young, and that sets the basis for his hurt, and how his youth shaped his later life. With Freddie, we don’t meet him until he’s already 18, which leaves questions for those who haven’t spent their life researching Freddie Mercury (mainly Mike Triemert, amongst other losers). I know movies are constrained by time, but I would’ve liked to see more, especially if this is intended to be a biography. Was Eric Fitterer always a prodigious financial analyst? No. But he drowned out his parents fighting every night by counting his back pimples (while crying), thus, improving his math skills.
Second, I wasn’t down with some of the historical inaccuracies. If your story is about a larger than life character, why feel the need to bend the truth? First, Freddie didn’t make his first stage appearance with the band Smile as the movie depicts. He spent a few years working with other bands to grow his confidence and stage persona. Why couldn’t we have seen some of those struggles? Again, we’re not seeing the full picture. Was Matt Forys always a great marathon runner? No. I remember leaving messages on his answering machine in college calling him a fat fuck. Also, in the movie, it reveals that Freddie broke up the band for a period of time to work on his own solo album. This isn’t true, as it was a joint decision by Queen to take a break due to burnout in 1983. The filmmakers made up this plot point along with Freddie inaccurately revealing his diagnosis of AIDS to the band members for a dramatic finish (he did die of AIDS in 1991, he just never revealed it in this way to the band). So, why deceive the audience? That’s like me putting ‘never married’ on my match.com profile before meeting my second wife.
Qualms aside, this film has more energy than your toddler on blow. It all starts with Rami Malek. The dude CRUSHES his role as Mercury. From the teeth, to the stage presence, his voice, mannerisms. You feel like you’re watching Freddie. It’s acting at its highest level. It’s like watching Pete Loosbrock swing a golf club, hearing him swear immediately in disgust, only to see the ball land two feet from the hole. It’s….MAGIC. Not only does Malek kill the stage performances, but you feel for him throughout the film. In an unfortunate time when homosexuality wasn’t as accepted, Malek exudes Mercury’s loneliness and confusion with precision. Freddie’s troublesome relationship with the love of his life, Mary Austin, feels both genuine and heartbreaking at the same time. Anyhow, if Malek isn’t nominated for an Oscar as best actor, I promise to get a hook tattooed on my lower back. Just kidding honey, your tattoo is really….lovely.
What else rocks, pun intended? The music. There’s more beats in this film than a lonely teenage boy alone with a sock after stealing his dad’s Viagra pills. I was hoping for a two hour soundtrack of my favorite Queen songs, and it delivered. We get all the bangers; “Somebody to Love,” “Under Pressure,” “We are the Champions,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Another one Bites the Dust,” “Radio Ga Ga,” and more. Fun aside, Lady GaGa took her name from Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga” hit. Anyway, the cool thing, and where this movie finally matches the biopic it’s trying to be, is we see how Queen finds their special sound. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to learn more about the other Queen members, but we do see how they’re VERY instrumental in many of Queen’s greatest hits. Watching the band find themselves while creating their second album in a remote cabin was one of the highlights of the movie for me. I’m sure it was even more nostalgic for those who grew up with Queen, kind of like watching Brad Radke give up his first home run for us 30-somethings.
Although there are bumps along the road, the movie is always lining itself up for the very rewarding pay-off. You know, like the Rocky movies, where Rocky is dealing with some kind of personal struggle, and then there’s a big training montage followed by the final fight that takes place over the last 20 minutes of the film? Yeah, that’s Bohemian Rhapsody. The final, Live Aid concert re-creation at Wembley Stadium is ‘the big fight.’ If like me, you’re hoping to be transported through time to a live Queen concert, this is as close as you’ll ever come. It’s an epic finish.
Should you see it? Freddie Mercury was one of kind, and perhaps his personality was too big to be crunched into a two hour film, even on the silver screen. But, it’s a fun ride. Grab a beer on a Friday night, stream it, and belt out your favorite Queen tracks. Then, put on a full polyester body suit and fuck the first stranger you see.