Editor Note: Gini Koch admits she is a little late to the party with this film, but we don’t mind.
It is always refreshing to see what Gini has to say about almost anything and this movie is no exception.
We at TG Geeks are always willing to run more than one review of a movie, it makes for good discussion and lets everyone see the many sides of a film.
True Confession: I am a gigantic Queen fan. The hubs is not. He avoided this movie like the plague, but it was still in theaters on my birthday and I used my Birthday License to get to see it. But, was it worth it for me and was it tortuous for the hubs? Let’s find out…
Bohemian Rhapsody is the biopic about Freddy Mercury and the band Queen. It follows Freddy and his journey from being trapped in a dead-end job and smothered by his family and society’s expectations to his becoming the lead singer for one of the biggest and most successful bands in the world and becoming out as a gay/bi man well before it was cool or remotely safe to do so.
History is written by the victors and/or those who live the longest. I’m an Old West buff/expert and the only reason we revere Wyatt Earp as a Great American Hero is that he lived to see motion pictures get made and, therefore, influenced his and his family and friends’ reputations. The Earps and their pals were no better or worse than most of the other infamous people of the Old West and law-abiding saints they were not.
However, one of the reasons we know so much about Doc Holliday is that Wyatt wrote about him. Doc was one of Wyatt’s closest friends and Wyatt was, realistically, probably Doc’s only real friend. Therefore, while I take what Wyatt shared with us with a grain of salt, his take on Doc is likely the most accurate we’ll ever really get, and certainly gives a side to Doc that literally no one else would know.
Why am I talking about the Old West when this is a rock and roll biopic movie? Because of what many other reviewers have said about the film.
The complaints about the film, even from our own Ro <Bohemian Rhapsody Leaves Too Much “Bio” out of the Pic | Ro Reviews> indicate that many out there feel that Brian May and Roger Taylor were using this picture to be mean to Freddie Mercury, to “get back” at him in some way. My viewing of this movie couldn’t be farther from that, and, since this movie has been out for ages, my review is more of a point/counterpoint than a description of the film itself.
Complaints have been made that the film shows Freddie as being debauched but the rest of the band being choir boys. Really? I saw the tour bus scenes, where Freddy is writing songs and writing to his fiancée, Mary, while the rest of the boys are with groupies. I saw the scene where Freddy digs at Roger about Roger’s unfaithfulness. Roger let that stay in, meaning Roger was admitting he wasn’t a choirboy. John Deacon’s personal life doesn’t get much play either way, possibly because he wasn’t involved in the movie and so Brian and Roger chose not to show anything negative about John. And, so what? The movie is about FREDDIE. And Freddie was a real person, not whatever single aspect of him people want to latch onto.
And that debauchery? Frankly, as the hubs said, it just looked like typical rock star excess. You could have inserted anyone (like every member of Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones, for starters) into the “debauchery” scenes and, other than possibly changing gay clubs to straight clubs depending on the rock star, it would have looked the same. Lots of money, lots of fame, and lots of people hanging around you who don’t care about you tends to lead to the same place, for everyone.
Complaints were made that the debauchery is only shown after Freddy accepts that he’s bi, so that the debauchery is caused by the gay community. I point again to the prior paragraph. The debauchery comes from the fame and the money, the rock star lifestyle, regardless of your sexual orientation.
Complaints have been made that the film is not chronologically accurate. No, it is not. It’s called creative license and almost every biopic ever made takes it. People are combined into one character, events move around to make things more dramatic, and so on. This happens 99% of the time. News flash: The kid in The Blind Side knew all about football before he moved in with the white family. But it was more dramatic for the movie to say that he didn’t. This is not unusual. This is common. The few biopics that are chronologically accurate and show everyone where they were and when they were there – Kevin Costner’s Wyatt Earp is a great example – tend to be slower and far less engaging than movies that switch things up for dramatic intent. Tombstone and Wyatt Earp came out the same year. I’ll wager that more readers have seen Tombstone than Wyatt Earp and more readers will re-watch Tombstone more than Wyatt Earp. Why? Wyatt Earp is incredibly accurate, and therefore a lot longer and slower-paced, and Tombstone is a far more fun and engaging movie.
But the biggest complaints center around Mary Austin, that aforementioned fiancée. So many complaints, mostly that she had too much time in the movie and wasn’t really important to Freddie’s life.
Um, right. He left the bulk of his estate and his home to her. Guess what? No one leaves that much money to someone they don’t care about. In interviews Freddie always referred to her as his common-law wife. He loved her. Yes, he loved Jim Hutton, too. But Mary was in his life far longer, and she mattered to him.
Why does the movie spend so much time on her when those who only registered Freddie Mercury after Queen’s “A Night at the Opera” album became a hit feel that she was a nonentity? Because they didn’t actually know Freddie Mercury. Because the people who actually did know him best were Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon and THEY KNEW MARY WELL, too. They knew her because she was an important part of Freddie’s life.
The other members of Queen know Freddie Mercury in a way only two others out there possibly can – Mary Austin and Jim Hutton – and they know him better than those two do in a lot of ways, simply because of the amount of time spent together over a lot of years. As the movie says more than once, they were family, and while families fight, sometimes all the time, they still come back together.
I saw nothing but honest love for Freddie in this movie. He’s shown to be brave, insanely talented, capricious (as are the rest of the band at any given time), loving, and magnetic. This movie is not a hate piece, it’s a love letter to a beloved friend, showing the warts and such but spending far more time on the things that made Freddie Mercury someone still remembered today.
Also, Brian May has been hugely protective of Freddie’s legacy since Freddie died. To accuse someone who has gone out of his way to protect his friend’s image and legacy of using this movie to “get back” indicates that others are seeing only the narrative they want to see.
But that’s art, isn’t it? The artist creates and the viewer/listener/reader takes away what they want, not necessarily all or even what the artist intended.
Of course, the bottom line question is: was it a good film?
It was a great film.
Raimi Malek becomes Freddie Mercury. That’s a Best Actor Oscar-worthy performance. He not only becomes Freddie but he shares all of Freddie’s humanity, good and bad, with the audience. He’s a living reminder of what we lost. The other actors all both look like the people they’re portraying and do amazing jobs of portraying them. Mike Myers was, for me, unrecognizable (like Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder) but fantastic as well. The songs chosen are great, the decision to bookend the movie with the Live Aid performance truly exceptional (and the reason for the chronological alterations, making them worth it), some scenes funny, some heartbreaking, all important.
The movie was moving and very emotional. I laughed and I cried more than once. I cared about everything that was happening, all of it. But the truly amazing thing was that the hubs loved this movie, too. He admitted that he was glad we’d seen it and would be willing to watch it again when I get it on Blu-Ray, which I absolutely will.
If you haven’t seen Bohemian Rhapsody yet, try to get to a theater still showing it or plan to buy it when it releases for home viewing. It’s what all biopics want to be when they grow up, and a wonderful, loving tribute to one of rock’s greatest voices and showmen.
5 stars out of 5