By Matt DeCristo
“Bohemian Rhapsody” takes us back to the genesis of British rock music, exploring the formation of the band ‘Queen’ and its legendary lead singer, Freddie Mercury.
I went in knowing a handful of details about Mercury; he was one of the first openly gay musicians at a time when homosexuality had just been decriminalized in Great Britain. He was the front man of a band that has a few popular hit songs. He was one of the first celebrity casualties to succumb to the AIDS epidemic.
Leaving, I had gained a much deeper appreciation for the hard life Mercury had, as well as the immense artistic influence that his band bestowed upon music. Written by Anthony McCarten, “Bohemian Rhapsody” begins with the formation of ‘Queen’ in 1970, and follows the group through early struggles to mega stardom. If you’re a fan of history and/or music, there’s simply no way you won’t appreciate the story.
Rami Malek stars as Freddie Mercury, and seems to be a natural choice in the role. There wasn’t a social media presence in the 1970s and 1980s to capture the actual antics of Mercury, so the performance is one of predominant assumption. I’ll say this – if Malek doesn’t portray Freddie Mercury exactly as one would envision, I don’t know who could.
What we know is that Mercury was an incredibly charismatic presence on stage, and this is demonstrated to us in a seamless way. Like many musical acts, the band members of ‘Queen’ (played equally well by Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello) are afterthoughts to the lead singer. The story tells us how ‘Queen’ acted as a family, with each member offering the necessary contributions to make the music they loved, and always acted as one.
Like the 2015 film “Straight Outta Compton,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” continues a trend of telling the biopic in an entertaining way. We get a fairly in-depth view of Mercuries upbringing – coming from his strict and highly conservative Parsi parents, and concealing his sexuality along the way by marrying Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), whom he penned many of ‘Queen’s’ songs about.
We also get to witness his chaotic and destructive life, fueled with wild parties and drugs. Freddie Mercury was an enigmatic character. He was truly gifted when it came to song and dance, but more importantly, having an unparalleled stage presence.
As expected, the soundtrack and musical accompaniment to the film is magnificent. We get insight as to the way several of the band’s most influential songs came about, with the writing and actual recording and mixing playing a pivotal part of the story. We also get on stage performances that demonstrate the band at its best – playing in front of packed arenas with Mercury equally leading ‘Queen’ and the crowds alike.
The cinematography does a terrific job of blending the story with the musical component. The songs and soundtrack never feel forced, and ride along with the plot as we ride along with the growth of the band, culminating with their legendary 1985 Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a thoroughly enjoyable film. Those that love music and history will feel right at home, watching the creation, rise, and fall of one of music’s most influential and memorable people.