Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury; Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin; Gwilym Lee as Brian May; Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor; Joseph Mazello as John Deacon
The music in Bohemian Rhapsody is amazing. That goes without saying.
You will know that Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara) was the superstar lead singer of the group Queen. He was a creative along the lines of Bowie and Prince; a performance artist/shape-shifter, genre-bending and brave enough to execute all that wonder in the mainstream for the joy of a multitude of fans.
This movie is the story of Freddie, the formation of Queen and its meteoric rise, Freddie’s romances, his discovery of the gay scene, his contracting of AIDS, the Live Aid Concert in 1985, and ultimately his death in 1991. A shooting star, triumphant and tragic.
The story left me questioning why the film was so ‘vanilla-ised’. Was it to capture a younger audience (PG-13) and connect a whole new generation to the marvel that was Queen? Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor were hired as executive producers so this may be a possibility. My raised eyebrow is that the movie implied naïve Freddie was led into temptation. Well, probably he may have been led into his first gay bar or beat in the same manner that we have all been led into a new experience for the first time, but after that he was well and truly a part of it.
Had this film been a non-vanilla version, the excess behaviour of the time would have been portrayed by more than suggestive shots of wantonly beautiful leather clad boys flicking tongues and cutaway shots of back-bar room doors and suggested orgies. It certainly would not have a PG-13 rating. It may also have placed the high octane rise of Freddie’s fame into historical context a little more specifically. Freddie Mercury came out at the height of the gay community's celebration of its own coming out. He was just one of many young men who were experiencing an emancipation euphoria fueled by drugs, alcohol and a feeling of acceptance into a community that could finally live by its own rules. What so tragically also became a part of this era and that community as we all know ‒ was an initially unidentified disease that would kill thousands of them, their loved ones and those who came in contact with contaminated blood product. Freddie was part of this mayor tragedy.
As is, the movie does justice to Freddie finding profound love twice in his life, firstly with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) who was not only his best friend and lover but who also helped style this lanky, buck-toothed boy into the stage presence that stunned us all. The second romance was with the strapping, loving Jim Hutton, with whom Freddie settled down until his death of AIDS-related pneumonia.
I also loved the way the film played up Queen as a group of self-confessed misfits; as one group member explained ‘playing to the misfits at the back of the room’. Freddie constantly reminded the group that if it were not for his outrageous daring-do they would be experiencing life as a dentist, a scientist, an electrician, and Freddie himself a luggage handler at Heathrow airport. What an unlikely professional line up to become one of the greatest bands of our lifetime.
Even more to love? That this unlikely group did it at all! They banded together for all their differences; intellectual, sexual, aesthetic and cultural and made music so commercially risky and Baroque that it split an atom. Proudly, the mainstream world embraced them for their effort.