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‘Bohemian Rhapsody’: Long live the Queen of Rock

| Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Ruby Le

I grew up in a house where music was part of my everyday life, from singing my lungs out in the car to quietly listening to music in my room. I was aware of Queen growing up, but I only knew them by the songs I listened to as a kid. To my 10-year-old self, Queen was just another great band, but to the world they were so much more. After I saw the trailer for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” to say I was excited to see it would be an understatement. The guitar riffs of “Don’t Stop Me Now” and the pounding beat of “We Will Rock You” caused adrenaline to run through my body. I was excited to see what 20th Century Fox would produce. However, while I left the theater chanting Queen’s songs in the freezing cold, I was disappointed in the decisions the movie made throughout the story.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is the biopic of the famous 1970s and ’80s rock band Queen and how they rose to fame. The film specifically focuses on Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), and how he met Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and Brian May (Gwilym Lee). Freddie Mercury, or Freddie Bulsara, was born in the British protectorate of Zanzibar, modern day Tanzania, and his family migrated to Britain. The wide-eyed, tan-skinned man with an overbite worked at London’s Heathrow Airport before meeting his future band members behind a local pub. Impressed by Mercury’s voice, Taylor and May add him to their band named “Smile,” which Mercury later renamed to Queen. They began traveling all over England, producing more and more songs.

The film has a great opening with a shot of Queen going out onto stage with a stadium full of screaming people but then fades back into this slow introduction of who Freddie Mercury is. The story picks up when they sign with a record company and tour outside of Britain. The movie then becomes a mix of behind-the-scenes features coupled with the controversy of Mercury dealing with his homosexuality. The middle act switches from Queen creating classics such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You” and “Another One Bites the Dust” to Mercury and his controversial private life.

The film is not afraid to address Mercury’s sexuality. Various scenes depict him hanging out with men, getting drunk or high and throwing lavish parties in his mansion. He surrounds himself with people who take advantage of him, his wealth and his talents, so much so that he considers breaking up the band. Seeing Mercury’s life spiral into chaos was important to understand who Mercury was off stage but some elements of his life felt forced and not natural at all. For example, near the third act, he forms a relationship with one of his servants Paul. Introducing this character so late in the film felt very forced and gave Paul very little screen time to allow any sort of sincere relationship to grow.

The third act is where this movie shines. The movie ends with Taylor, May and their bassist John Deacon forgiving Freddie for straying away from who he was when they formed Queen and agreeing to play in the 1985 Live Aid Charity concert. Their performance encapsulated everything that Queen stands for: outsiders playing for the outsiders. The cinematography and wide shots were breathtaking to watch; I felt as if I was there on that July evening. The roaring crowds, the chanting, the emotion Freddie poured into singing each song knowing AIDS would soon claim his life sent chills down my spine. I was silently chanting along with the crowd, watching a legend perform for the last time ever.

Despite a slow beginning, shoe-horned relationships and no more in-depth knowledge than highlights of Queen’s greatest songs, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is definitely worth your time and will make die-hard and casual music fans grin from ear to ear.

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