Bohemian Rhapsody: A Review
Throughout our lives, there are moments that, no matter how much time passes, feel like they just occurred yesterday. They feel so vivid that they seem more like a scene from a movie rather than real life. These moments can shape the person that you become from then on. For me, one of those moments was the first time I heard what is still to this day is my favorite song ever, Bohemian Rhapsody.
Through all the years and all the music I have heard, Queen also stands as my favorite band, a bottomless pit of hits as we call it. This means that I have had my eye on this movie since long before it's original star, Sasha Baron Cohen, left in 2013 due to creative differences. While I don't think I will ever be able to let what that movie could have been leave my head, we now finally have a full-fledged Queen biopic, for better or worse.
Bohemian Rhapsody is about Queen's rise to becoming the biggest band in the world behind their eccentric front man Freddie Mercury. Starting at their humble beginnings playing in clubs to their epic Live Aid performance in 1985, widely considered to be one of the greatest rock and roll performances captured on film.
As I mentioned before, Bohemian Rhapsody has hit it's fair share of bumps along the way. From losing it's star to having it's director fired halfway through the movie. This almost always spells trouble for a movie. A Queen without a head is no Queen at all, but for all of the issues, the final product is surprisingly intact. Unfortunately, that product is something that Queen was never meant to be, standard.
What I always expected from a Queen/Freddie Mercury movie was something different than what we had ever seen, and I understand that is a tall order. We did not get that here and while I am disappointed, I can understand why. What I cannot excuse is vast historical inaccuracies and a disregard for what Queen really was, a group of nerds, taking chances, not knowing if they would ever work out.
Almost everything in Bohemian Rhapsody feels like the band knew exactly what they were doing at all times and that they were the only ones with this clear vision of how their music should be handled. This pared with a very suspect retelling and timeline shifting of key Queen events leads to the movie having no meaningful conflict.
There are interviews with Freddie himself where he talks about how "it was a 50-50 shot to work out" when talking about the bands most famous song. This is not represented anywhere in the movie, instead the characters become sort of musical superheroes losing any of the "small guy" charm that their real life counterparts had.
It is a fool who watches a biographical movie for it's historical accuracy but Bohemian Rhapsody takes so many liberties that it is hard to ignore. To list them here would be bordering on spoiler territory, but as a massive Queen fan, it feels like this movie was not made for the hardcore fans but for the masses.
That is not to say that Bohemian Rhapsody is without any redeeming qualities, in fact where it does succeed almost outweighs the struggles. Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury is fantastic in so many ways, from how he perfectly emulates Freddie's on stage persona to the moments where he in indistinguishable from the real thing. I have not looked it up but I would not be surprised if certain shots had been digitally altered to help Malik fully morph into Mercury, but if not huge kudos to the design and makeup team.
As a matter of fact everyone in the band from Brian May to Rodger Taylor to John Deacon look exactly as they did in real life. This is not necessarily a huge selling point for the overall quality of the movie but was something I noticed constantly while viewing and if anything is made more upsetting by the lack or realism from the rest of the movie.
If there is one shining moment in Bohemian Rhapsody it is of course, the music. This I cannot give credit to anyone but Queen themselves for making some of the best rock music ever recorded, but luckily the filmmakers feel the same way. Really the greatest joy of the movie for me was seeing what classic song was up next. In some ways it felt like listening to a Queen greatest hits album all the way through and to be honest there may be no band better suited for it.
To go along with the killer tunes are some recreations of famous Queen performances, most notably their legendary Live Aid set. Again, leaning on what Queen does best, these are easily the most memorable moments from the movie and for good reason. These scenes were so fun that it made me almost forget all the other shortcoming present here and left me enjoying the movie way more than it deserved.
Queen will never be more popular than The Beatles or Led Zeppelin. They will never be more respected than The Who or David Bowie and none of them will be as smooth as Billy Ocean, but if there is one thing Bohemian Rhapsody shows us it's just how fun the music Queen made was and still is.
So if you go into Bohemian Rhapsody expecting to get some realistic, hardcore information about the band and their front man, you are gonna have a bad time. But...if you go in with a love for Queen and a desire to have your socks rocked off, this one may just end up being a lot more fun than it ought to be.