With moving performances, an unforgettable soundtrack, and a true story, “Bohemian Rhapsody” adeptly shares the life and music of Freddie Mercury.
“We Are the Champions.” “I Want to Break Free.” “We Will Rock You.” “Killer Queen.” “Don’t Stop Me Now.” These are a mere handful of Queen’s most iconic songs, and make up just a fraction of the unforgettable soundtrack to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Starring Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, this film takes audiences behind the scenes of one the most legendary bands of all time and provides an unprecedented personal glimpse into the turbulent life of its lead singer. It is an inspiring, yet ultimately tragic story that is sure to leave audience members smiling and singing through their tears.
The film opens with glimpses of Freddie Mercury getting ready for a concert, with the song “Somebody to Love” blasting. As soon as Freddie steps onstage, the plot flashes back years prior, when he was still known as Farrokh Bulsara. At that time, he was still living at home with his family following their emigration from Zanzibar. It is evident from their first interactions that there is a distinct tension between Farrokh and his father (Ace Bhatti) due to their differing lifestyles. One fateful night, Farrokh goes out to a bar where he meets two members of a band called Smile: Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy). Farrokh begins to go by “Freddie,” and joins their band. After gaining its final band member, John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello), the group relabel itself as Queen.
As the band gains momentum and fame, Freddie gradually transforms into the singer and celebrity that audiences today know and love. His style becomes more glamorous; he begins to speak with more confidence about himself and the band and he legally changes his name to Freddie Mercury. As time goes on, he also begins to take some daring risks, most notably seen in his persistence to get the band’s “A Night at the Opera” album produced exactly the way they wanted it. This was the album that introduced the infamous and titular song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which surprisingly flopped when first released. Despite this fact, the film adeptly examines the passion and story behind the lyrics of “Bohemian Rhapsody” so that viewers will never be able to listen to it the same way again.
The second half of the movie, however, takes a more serious and emotional turn. Freddie is surrounded by those who love him and those who wish only to manipulate him and is seemingly unable to tell the difference between the two. Suddenly, his personal life and the struggles he experiences while trying to discover his sexuality are thrust into the public eye. He begins to turn to different sources of comfort, ranging from reliance on trusted individuals to substance abuse. All the while, Freddie and the band continue to perform, creating some of their most renowned hits. This portion of the film contains the most heart-wrenching performances, especially Malek’s portrayal of a distraught and lonely Freddie, and each of the band members’ reactions as concerned friends. It is undeniable that these actors worked hard to appear naturally close with each other, and in these tear-jerking moments, their efforts paid off. Freddie considered his fellow bandmates to be family, and the film is peppered with instances that reflect that.
In terms of acting, it is clear that Malek is the strongest actor in the film. The way his whole persona shifts from scene to scene, depending on if he is portraying a young Farrokh or an aging, lonely Freddie, right down to his posture and voice intonations, is magnificent. Yet, his gripping performance results in each of his fellow actors coming off as supporting characters, even when they are supposed to play major roles as well. For instance, Freddie’s girlfriend and lifelong friend Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) appears throughout the film as a supportive force, not to mention as the inspiration behind the Queen song “Love of My Life.” However, her character is only defined through her experiences with Freddie, so while viewers may pity or identify with her point of view, all empathy is ultimately directed back toward him. The rest of the members of Queen are consistently portrayed as loving, supportive, and hilarious friends, but beyond that their personal details are virtually unknown. Even Freddie’s male partners remain underdeveloped except for the fact that one of them is attributed to the film’s only antagonistic role. In the end, the only character the audience feels emotionally connected to is Freddie, and while that is effective for revealing his story, viewers will feel a sense of longing to know the other characters better.
Despite this, the film’s style and focal points illustrate that the end goal of this movie is in fact to share Freddie’s story and how music was such an integral part of his life. There are numerous sequences depicting the band creating its most famous hits, including “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Will Rock You,” with many more showing how the band performed in concert. Throughout each of these scenes, Freddie is shown interacting with the crowd passionately, clearly singing to them instead of just at them. The true cinematic masterpiece of the film is undoubtedly the portrayal of the 1985 “Live Aid” concert. “Live Aid” was one of the biggest showcases of music artists ever, acting as a charity event to elicit donations for hunger relief in Africa, and Queen’s performance there was — in one word — epic. “Bohemian Rhapsody” portrays their full “Live Aid” show, capturing Freddie’s onstage perspective as well as footage from the crowd’s position. Viewers are left feeling as if they really are there, experiencing Freddie’s performance firsthand. Listening to the music in conjunction with this scene makes the energy of the concert palpable. What’s more, at this part in the film, viewers will know the history behind the songs Freddie sings, granting each lyric with a deeper meaning and emotional impact.
Overall, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is an impassioned film that exhibits how unifying music really is and the role it can play in both self-expression and self-discovery. Even if viewers aren’t familiar with Freddie Mercury or Queen’s music, their stories are inspiring nonetheless. Freddie showed the world that it was okay to be a little ridiculous at times, as long as you ultimately don’t lose yourself in the process. This film is a tribute to that ideal, and his legacy will continue to live through his music, providing a voice for generations to come.
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Rami Malek, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Gwilym Lee, Lucy Boynton, Allen Leech, Mike Myers
Release Date: November 2
Image courtesy of IMDb.