“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a stunning show of Freddie Mercury’s tragic life and Queen’s troubled lifetime.
The film, directed by Brian Singer, focuses on the life of famed lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, until his iconic and almost mythic performance at Live-Aid in 1985. The film begins in Mercury’s college days as Farrokh Bulsara christening himself Freddie to his traditional Indian Parsi family, and quickly moves through the band’s formative years, writing their bigger hits, such as “Love of My Life,” and the titular megamedley, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After their departure from Ray Foster, the band begins to experiment with their audience and their own personas, making critical decisions that would affect the future of the band.
For the most part, the film is visually stunning, save for a few sequences that leave some to be desired, graphically-speaking. The bigger hallmarks of the film’s presentation come from its transitions. These transitionary sequences directly follow the film’s dramatic arc, becoming bigger and more extravagant as Freddie Mercury and Queen become bigger and bigger. Probably the most intriguing sequence is one that is a little strange for a biographical drama. After Queen’s “musical masterpiece” “Bohemian Rhapsody” is rejected by their record label, he chooses to debut the six-minute single on his good friend Kenny Everett’s radio program. At the opening synth vocals, all other sound cuts out and actual reviews from the time period begin to flash on screen, leading the audience to believe that the song was a flop. Of course, anybody who knows Queen sees the ruse that Singer plays on the audience and immediately jumps into a performance by the band a year after the song’s initial release. The contrast is striking and serves the film greatly.
One of the most important aspects of the movie is its treatment of Freddie Mercury’s sexuality. In many biographical dramas, LGBT persons are effectively “straightwashed,” meaning many or all references to their non-heterosexual orientation are not given proper respect, edited out or not present in any cut of the film. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is not a biographical drama of that variety. It treats Mercury’s memory with the utmost respect and validates his identity as a gay man. Mercury was first asked about his sexuality in 1974, only seven years after homosexual acts were decriminalized in the United Kingdom, and the film portrays this societal transition in a relatable and honest way. Mercury is not ashamed of his sexuality but is ashamed of the way society attempts to pigeonhole him into one box or the other. Even near the end of his life, Mercury did not become completely comfortable showing evidence of his sexual orientation in public. Despite this unease, Mercury stands in the same grouping as Harvey Milk in the effect he had on the LGBT community and their place in society.
Conversely, the film does have its drawbacks. In the middle of the film, the band goes on a large tour from a performance on the BBC through their American tour. This part of the movie is told through an excessively long montage that, while visually appealing, ultimately draws away from the dramatic content of the film and seems to serve as a pad for the runtime.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of the few biographical dramas that really seem to get it right. It doesn’t have an agenda, but it wishes to tell the story that many people may not know, that story being Freddie Mercury’s identity as more than just the frontman of Queen, but also as a gay icon and a deeply troubled, tortured artist. “Bohemian Rhapsody” receives a 90 percent rating.