Review: Bohemian Rhapsody (the film)

P.C. All rights of the image used above are reserved to Oscar Galeano.
Tl;DR: Go watch it. It’s a good one kids. A great one in fact. This film scored an 8/10.

I’m going to be honest. I knew nothing about Queen before I watched this film. I mean I’ve belted out ‘We Will Rock You’ and done my own rendition of ‘We Are The Champions’ in the shower here and there, but who hasn’t?

If I’m being really honest, I didn’t even particularly want to watch Bohemian Rhapsody. I just so happened to walk into the cinema and it was the only film on show. It was 21.24pm. I had six minutes to get myself into the screen. I thought ‘I haven’t seen the trailer so this is either going to be a hit or miss. Fuck it. Let’s watch this’. So I did.

And it was a hit.

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It has now been two weeks since I watched Queen’s brilliant biopic which details the band’s rise to success. And I haven’t shut up about the film since.

Brought to life by a ridiculously handsome Rami Malek (okay, so maybe it was more him looking ridiculous and less so handsome in this particular film…I mean did you see those teeth?), it would be fair to say that the vast majority of the film centred around Queen’s lead singer and front man, Freddie Mercury.

Indeed, the film revolved around Mercury so much, such that, if you were to ask me the name of his fellow band mates, I really wouldn’t know. I suppose I don’t really blame the director, Bryan Singer, for that – Mercury was clearly an individual, and an exuberant, very flamboyant and unique one at that. He was different and it is no surprise that he shone; that he, like his unique, in-your-face set of teeth, stuck out, more than his fellow bandmates and was as a result made the subject of Singer’s film.

malekMercury

He was a weirdo. I think I realised that about ten minutes into the film and I knew then, this movie, this biopic of Mercury’s life (because come on now, it was never really about Queen as a band) was going to be a good one.

Why, might you ask? Well, because if you look back in history, it’s always the weirdos who make it, especially the ones like Mercury that come with masses of deeply ingrained self-belief and self-confidence. These are the ones that don’t care about the opinion of sheep, find themselves outside the norms of social conventions and are weird and so in consequence of this, have nothing to lose.

And then they make a mark in the world, just as Mercury did, in his very own outlandish way.

Having attained as many as six million album sales in the UK as recent as 2014, it is clear to see that Queen remain one of the most prominent names in Rock N’Roll, and that led by Mercury, the band have definitely made their mark in the world.

But for Queen’s front man, life was not always smooth sailing and chart hits. Before he was Freddie Mercury, he was Farrokh Bulsara. Born into a Parsi Zoroastrian family, Mercury was sent off to study in India during his formative years, where he created his first ever band. It was also here that the name Freddie emerged, at his school in Bombay, where all of the English-speaking children would refer to a young Bulsara as Freddie.

Upon his return to the UK, Farrokh, now Freddie, completed a diploma in Graphic Design and became acquainted with a number of musicians in London. It just so happened that two of these musicians had their front man walk out on them. He had left them, a group, broken.

And so, queue Freddie Mercury, queue his bravado, his confident self not only joining the group but establishing himself as its leader – the showman to end all showmen.

This is a pivotal moment really, in the making of the band, which is conveyed in the first few minutes of Singer’s film. What is also conveyed is the overt racism that Mercury faced. Actually, there’s a scene in the film where Mercury makes his first presence on stage, as part of the band, as the front man of the band and the people in the crowd yell out:“Paki!”.

I told you, Mercury was different. Not just in his zest for Rock N’Roll, not just in his eccentricity, but in his very being. What I’m saying is, he was different by white peoples’ standards. What I’m saying is, he was Asian.

He was brown.

And this was the 70’s. This was Rock N’Roll. Asians didn’t do Rock N’Roll, they weren’t part of that genre, at least not visibly so.

So, he went through that. That being racism. That being a lot of shit. Thankfully however, it was somewhat short-lived because his talent shone through (at least, this was how Singer portrayed it in Bohemian Rhapsody), and the political landscape in Britain, slow though it may have been, was shifting, was becoming more accepting even. And Queen? Well, Queen were shining.

The band were very much-so going from strength to strength. Life was good. But anyone who has life good will tell you that life being good doesn’t come easy. Mercury had problems of his own.

There were tensions within the band, with Mercury at one point having left the band to pursue music on his own. And things weren’t too great in his personal life either.

Obviously gay, his sexuality was something that while it was very openly displayed in his performances, was never actually publically spoken of. Indeed, his bandmates have always maintained that while “we were close as a group…even we didn’t know a lot of things about Freddie”.

One person he did break his sexuality to, that he perhaps felt he had to break his sexuality to, was long-term lover and common-law wife, Mary Austin. Austin is known to the paparazzi as being an incredibly private woman and in a way it is a shame that the making of this movie has thrown her back into the limelight.

We’re never really going to get Austin’s view of Mercury’s ‘coming out’, but from Singer’s depiction, it is clear that Austin is hurt by Mercury’s admission of his sexuality. She didn’t in anyway shun Mercury though; the two of them had always and would always be special to one another. Mercury in an interview once stated: “The only friend I’ve got is Mary, and I don’t want anybody else…we believe in each other. That’s enough for me. I couldn’t fall in love with a man the same way as I have with Mary”.

And while Mary was accepting of Mercury’s sexuality and things seemed somewhat good for the pair, Mercury was harbouring a heartbreaking secret – he had AIDS.

There’s a scene in the movie where he coughs up blood, and I remember letting out a small “oh shit” because I knew what it was and I knew what was coming.

Diagnosed in 1987, Freddie Mercury struggled with AIDS for four years before the illness took him in 1991.

Aside from Malek’s phenomenal acting (I mean, can we just give the man all the accolades already, please?), what really stood out and made this movie award-winning worthy in my eyes, was Singer’s portrayal of a man undefined by AIDS.

In the movie, Mercury informs the band of his HIV status, and tells them that it is something to be kept between themselves. He doesn’t want the outside world knowing of his illness because he most certainly wasn’t going to be any poster-boy for AIDS. Fuck that. Im Freddie-fucking-Mercury he exclaims.

The climax of the film was Queen’s Live Aid performance, most brilliantly brought to cinematic life by Singer in his direction of Bohemian Rhapsody. In his portrayal, Singer depicts Mercury’s HIV status as being one of the reasons that brought the band back together and resulted in their decision to put on one final show-stopping performance at Live Aid.

Singer has received A LOT of criticism for the way in which he tweaked Mercury’s real life-story to achieve his tragic ending. And while we can sit around and debate his decision to retcon Mercury’s illness, I don’t think we’re going to get very far on that one.

The film ’s already been released.

He may not have been 100% accurate in his depiction of Mercury’s illness and its supposed causal link to Queen’s decision to take on the Live Aid performance, but I’ll tell you what Singer did do right.

AIDS, and/or homosexuality rather, have always been contentious issues. The 1970’s were not kind to those with AIDS. Even today, there will be a minority of people in a twenty-first century audience who will not be accepting of AIDS and do not sympathise with its victims. But if I was to take a survey of everyone who sat in that cinema screen with me asking if there was someone, anyone, in the crowd who didn’t sympathise with victims of AIDS after watching Bohemian Rhapsody, I’d be shocked if anyone did come forward.

And that’s because Singer did a tremendous job in relating that AIDS, much like cancer, or a common sore throat, can effect anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are the front man of one of the most prolific Rock N’Roll bands of the 80’s, AIDS could still afflict you.

And it did. It effected Freddie Mercury and took his life even. But what this biopic did, marvelously so, might I add, was show that being an individual, being your own person and pursuing your passions, pays off. Sure it wasn’t always good times and Mercury had his own fair share of problems, but life was, arguably, on the whole, good to him and good to Queen.

Queen left a legacy in the world and were inspirational. That inspiration shines through in Bohemian Rhapsody and is in large the reason I have ranked this film an 8/10.

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Have you watched Bohemian Rhapsody? If so I’d love to hear your opinions on the film. You can leave a comment down below or DM me on Instagram @fahmidablogs and I’ll be sure to reply 🙂 Until the next time, happy reading!

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