By Hannah Fuchs--
It was years in the making for iconic British rock band Queen to be portrayed on the big screen, but on November 2nd, Bohemian Rhapsody premiered with a bang. The movie primarily chronicles the life of legendary front-man Freddie Mercury (played expertly by Rami Malek), beginning with the formation of the band in 1970. Mercury, along with bandmates Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon (Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joe Mazzello, respectively) push the envelope with layered vocal recordings, unconventional instrumentals and a diverse array of genres. Queen’s originality unsurprisingly troubles record label executives, as shown in one pivotal scene where the label refuses to allow the six-minute rock-opera “Bohemian Rhapsody” to run as the promotional single for their album. Rather than hesitantly give in to the pressures of how music is supposed “to work” and sell, Queen quits the label and decides to release “Bohemian Rhapsody” themselves, skyrocketing further into fame.
While Bohemian Rhapsody showcases May, Taylor and Deacon in many scenes, often bantering for comedic relief, it is truly Mercury’s story. The film makes evident how revolutionary Mercury was, from his flamboyant outfits to his quirky creative discretion on many of Queen’s greatest records. Bohemian Rhapsody also reveals an extremely vulnerable side of Mercury. His struggles with his sexuality are evident in his complex relationship with his dear friend and former fiancé Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). Their relationship begins to strain when Mercury leaves for a North American tour and he comes to accept his additional interest in men, leading to an emotional moment between the two. Mercury also feels immense isolation during the periods back home in London between tours, as his band-mates begin to marry and settle down and Mary enters new relationships. He begins to throw extravagant parties as an attempt to cure the loneliness, surrounding himself with toxic friends who use him for his fame and wealth. After a brief stint where Mercury severs ties with the rest of Queen and creates two solo albums, a decision it is clear he later regrets, he begins to fall ill, eventually learning he has contracted HIV. Mercury comes to realize that in the limited life he has left, it is essential to reconcile with his loved ones, including Queen, Mary and his family, and it is essential to cut out those taking advantage of him. The film ends in a powerful twenty minute reenactment of Queen’s iconic 1985 Live Aid performance, and it is evident that Mercury is finally content with both his life and his career.
Bohemian Rhapsody received mixed critical reviews, currently standing at a 62% on Rotten Tomatoes. While most viewers, myself included, enjoyed the film as a celebration of Queen’s music and history, others criticized embellishments to the actual timeline of Mercury’s life, notably the fact that he was diagnosed with HIV after the Live Aid performance, not before as he is in the film. Personally, as a Queen fan, I loved the musical component of the film, hearing many of Queen’s greatest hits in a variety of fun concert scenes. Additionally, while I was initially skeptical of Malek’s portrayal of Mercury, he proved to be one of the best parts of the film, showcasing raw emotion and the Freddie-like swagger that is notoriously difficult to imitate. I urge you to go see the film while it is still in theaters, as you are sure to encounter a lively musical and emotional two hours.