Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

“You’re a legend, Freddy.” “We are all legends”.

To this day, Queen remains one of the most iconic rock groups of all times. With songs like ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are The Champions’, it’s easy to get nostalgic about their era and feel compelled to sing along. So, if you are looking for an afternoon filled with drama, excitement and longing for the good old days, this new film, celebrating the lives of Queen, is out now! Bohemian Rhapsody takes us back in time to experience the epic band’s rise to fame starring Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon and of course Rami Malek as the acclaimed Freddie Mercury.

It is a story that starts as the band, Smile, welcomes Mercury (called Farrokh Bulsara at the time) to their group, then follows his development into their charismatic lead singer. The film takes us on a journey through the most iconic moments of the band’s career as well as giving insight into Freddie’s relationship with soulmate Mary Austin, played by Lucy Boynton, and the dynamic between band members. The script also introduces small details potentially unknown to fans, such as the fact that Brian May invented the stomp-stomp-clap rhythm of ‘We Will Rock You’ and John Deacon wrote the riff for ‘Another One Bites the Dust’. The scenes outlining the production of the six-minute legendary anthem ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ are impressive and comical, showcasing the originality of its operatic section and puzzling lyrics. The song and its experimental attitude are clearly features that distinguished the band from their contemporaries.

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However, many critics accentuated the lack of development in Mercury’s character as person over showman. His notoriously debauched lifestyle is diluted to fit a family-friendly template and be accessible to all ages. This leads to a weaker portrayal of the prodigious singer’s private life. His flamboyant lifestyle filled with promiscuous parties, drugs, as well as his homosexuality are redirected in his relationship with life companion, Mary Austin, and there is only a slight suggestion of the lifestyle that would be later the cause of his death. The film only reaches a slight depth when it focuses less on the clash of the bandmates’ personalities, and more on Freddie’s loneliness and his alienation from his band and family, established by the torments of his sexuality and ways of life. However, it cannot be said that the film is an honest portrayal of Mercury’s private history.

Nevertheless, the lack of depth in the script is certainly made up for by Rami Malek’s acting and impersonation of the band’s frontman. Throughout the footage, it is clear that Malek transforms himself into Mercury over the course of the film; not quite like him at the start, he becomes almost indistinguishable by the last performance.  Malek’s Freddie perfectly portrays the lead singer’s inner knowledge that he was born to be a star, only reaching fulfilment when performing in front of vast crowds-“(When I’m on stage) I am exactly the person I was always meant to be. I’m not afraid of anything”.

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The actor’s zenith is achieved in the Live Aid performance at the end of the film. The reproduction of the full 20-minute performance was a bold move but, without a doubt, absurdly impressive as it successfully keeps the audience’s eyes and ears pinned to the screen, having to restrain themselves from singing along throughout, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Radio GaGa’, ‘Hammer to Fall’, ‘We Will Rock You’ and the final, tragic yet heartening, chant ‘We Are the Champions’. The latter concluded the film with the painful awareness of Freddie’s impending death, but also with the reassuring knowledge that his music and legacy lived on.

So, if you are in search of a film reminding you of the great music of a past generation, I would no doubt recommend this movie. However, for hardcore fans looking for a realistic portrayal of Freddie Mercury’s life and Queen’s lifestyle, you might be disappointed.

-Greta Sanna

 

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