Rating: 12s / Genre: Biopic, Drama / Directed by: Bryan Singer / Written by: Anthony McCarten / Edited by: John Ottman / Released: November 2nd, 2018 / Runtime: 135 minutes / Studio: 20th Century Fox
Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury. Freddie defied stereotypes and shattered convention to become one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn Freddie, surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates just in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. Queen cements a legacy that continues to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day.
With today being the anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death, I felt it a day to share a review of this latest biopic…
After seeing Bohemian Rhapsody three times now in the cinema, I can honestly say it only got better with each viewing. I admire Queen as a band and like their songs, but I would never have called myself a big fan which many of the people going to see the film possibly are. For this reason, I decided to educate myself a little bit more before watching the film, like listening to some interviews, watching videos on YouTube of them working the studio on some of their songs, and of their performance at the Live Aid concert. Having then caught up on their background a bit more, I went into the film hopeful but a little sceptical given the reviews from the critics as of late. Well, whatever opinions they might have, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and would recommend anyone and everyone to go see it.
The level of detail that went into the making of this movie is nothing short of phenomenal. From references in the background to this and that (the photo of Marlene Dietch which inspired the cover of their album Queen II) to the placement, logo design, and quantity of the Pepsi cups on the piano at the concert, I am left feeling extremely, extremely impressed with what research went into this film.
Sticking to the level of detail, Rami Malek deserves all the praise and admiration being adorned to him since this came out. His hand gestures, his walk, his head movements – everything and anything he could do to liken himself to Freddie Mercury he did spectacularly on point. The rest of the cast who played the other band members: Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee as Brian May, and Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon looked so similar, double taking is a frequent occurrence through the 135 minutes this film takes place in. A massive well done to them all.
The biggest thing that I can gather the critics took issue with was the timeline shift. I mean, to be fair, the film does completely throw life events and the order of things out of whack. Because I knew the reason why this was done going into the film, (wanting to frame the film around the live aid performance) I wasn’t taken by surprise and found it easily forgivable. After all, this isn’t a step-by-step biography of the man or the band, it’s simply a biopic film for our entertainment. Given that Brian May and Roger Taylor helped produce the film and they didn’t have a problem with the change-up of the timeline– why should we? The reasons for the changeup are perfectly logical with regards to making the film since had they included everything in Freddie’s life in the exact time it happened, we’d have a 6-hour film on our hands that the critics would have been up in arms about too. (Much like the qualms people had over the release of the infamous song…) So, never before has the saying “You can’t please everyone” been so prevalent. I’m quite sure the people who had the idea for the film in the first place realised they were never going to please everybody; in every scenario someone was going to get offended or put out.
Of course, this is not to say the film is without its faults. I do see how the story might be seen as long and blandish to certain audiences. For a while it was all about how they came up with one hit after another which is great but I could see how it might be construed as repetitive. I think they spent too much time dilly-dallying around with Paul Prenter and his “villainess” intentions when more time could have been spent building the relationship between Freddie and Jim Hutton, who to the best of my knowledge was more important in his life, no? Sure, it’s good for stirring conflict, but I did feel it drag just a bit too much the first time I watched the film. I didn’t take any notice the two other times. Then Freddie’s reunion with Jim by the end was so rushed, if you weren’t familiar with the ins and outs would easily go over people’s heads. I do think their story in real life is the sweetest thing. They put far more emphasis on his relationship with Mary Austin, which is fine, but they were both important.
The film does depict Freddie’s struggles with figuring out his sexuality. It’s subtle but it’s there more so than the film critics seemed to pick up on I felt. They might have preferred a more in-your-face approach. The parties and nights out Freddie experienced were eluded to in one scene and to my way of thinking it was enough. I actually really liked the montage scene of Freddie visiting the gay clubs while going back and forth to the recording of Another One Bites The Dust as the song plays over this. We don’t need anymore of either of these things than what we see because the film is about Queen’s music and talent, not the behind the scenes stuff (which frankly, are their own business, surely).
The film focused heavily on depicting a deep sense of loneliness, and self-hatred harboured by him. At least that’s what I picked up, whether it’s true or not, it was sad. I liked how they made this interpretation all tie in together by the end, particularly with the title song – even if no one will ever really know what was behind that song.
A lot happens towards the end of the film prior to the big finale which I also got the impression put a lot of the critics off. He finds out he has AIDS, he reunites with Jim, he tells people he has AIDS – a lot of big moments that fly past a bit. While I understand this pacing might put people off, I still don’t deem it a reason to brandish the film off.
Of course, without doubt it’s the Live Aid scenes that are the highlight of the whole show. They’re so impressive that all this rushing beforehand fades away. The likeness and near exact replication of it all is so impressive, to be honest, I was a bit in awe. Obviously, I wasn’t there myself, so those who were will of course have a far bigger understanding and ability for comparison, but from my point of view, I was blown away by it. I don’t think they could have done a better job. The idea that these were the first scenes shot by the actors is equally mind-blowing – talk about being thrown in the deep end! The performances of each song were timed to perfection with the real footage of Queen’s performance. Watching them side to side, again, the attention to detail is outstanding. Rami Malek is amazing. With such wonderful cinematography to boot, seeing it on the big screen it allows you to feel like you are there too. The urge to join in with the crowd on screen is strong! It’s flawless. I do wish I had been alive at the time to experience such an unbelievable event. I am jealous, not going to lie. It was such an amazing thing to do.
Even the editing of this film is fascinating to read up about. Needless to say, not a note was sung by the cast but instead all dubbed with the actual recordings of Queen and Freddie but you wouldn’t know the difference watching. The way they edited the crowds singing at the Live Aid concert is interesting too. People sent in recordings of themselves singing the songs and they were layered on top of each other, accompanied with Freddie singing of course, and hey-presto. The transitions are amusing as well. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know which one in particular I’m thinking of when I say that. Introducing the recording sessions of Bohemian Rhapsody through the suggestion of a chicken singing the ‘Galileo’ is genius. I don’t care what anyone says. I, and the rest of the audience in the cinema, burst out laughing. It’s one of the only films I’ve been to where everyone in the cinema laughed at exactly the same time for all the jokes included during the film, not just this one.
So many great lines stand out from this film, a lot of which I’m fairly certain were quotes said by the band members themselves (though correct me if I’m wrong). From Freddie’s “I pity your wife if you think 6 minutes is forever”, Brian’s response to Freddie’s flamboyant outfit “You look like an angry lizard”, to Roger’s “If I go any higher only dogs will hear me” to the group shouting in unison “Not the coffee machine!” to Roger over a disagreement regarding his ‘I’m In Love With My Car’ song. A lot of jokes were made at that song’s expense actually. And of course, there’s the scenes with Ray Foster played by Mike Myers. I challenge anyone to keep a straight face during his moments.
I liked that the story ended on a high note. This might not agree with everyone either. But it honed in on Freddie’s talents, and indeed each of Queen’s members’ talents, as musicians more above all the behind the scenes part of his and their lives. I think this was what the film wanted and it did achieve that. People might argue that, well, how much new information do we really know about Freddie or Queen after watching this? To which I must say, what does that matter? That’s not why the film was made. We got exactly what we went in for – a film about Queen, a film celebrating Freddie Mercury. Even if the pacing was a bit questionable at times. All the songs are there and the essentials of the events that went on in their time.
With plenty of humour, stunning visual detail, marvellous editing, a fantastic cast, and (goes without saying) a banger of a soundtrack – what’s not to love about this film? Critics aren’t always right, and say what you will but to my way of thinking, it has all the ingredients to a fantastic time at the cinema.