Bohemian Rhapsody is first and foremost a film about art. Themes of race, sexuality, and marginalisation are threaded throughout, but they do not define this flick. Instead, this film encourages us to revel in the brilliance of Queen and the everlasting impact of their music; in doing so, we also realise the spectacular nature of the one and only Freddie Mercury. This bio-pic begins at Queen’s conception, and carries us to their climax: Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, 1985.
The exploration of Queen’s timeline is fantastic, eccentric, and meaningful in this 2-hour masterpiece: the closeness within the band, and their shared love of music, was held at the centre, making it known that some of the greatest music in recent history was born from true passion. Mercury’s extraordinary character was captured in its entirety as Rami Malek gives a performance to end all performances – Freddie, teeth and all, was seen in every quiver while singing, and in every expression of tender emotion. If you are familiar with the entire Queen clan, performances from Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello as Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, respectively, are equally as accurate. Even to one who is unfamiliar, all four performers deliver embodiments that are endearing and highly entertaining.
The narrative arc works through the creation of Queen’s iconic tunes, as each hit uncovers unique meanings and diverse impacts on audiences. The jaw-dropping performances from the cast, alongside marvellous cinematography, combined with an epic recreation of the on-screen set, takes audience members to another time and place, allowing us to forget that we are simply sitting in a little cinema in Adelaide. After each song was performed, I had to actively stop myself from cheering in the cinema.
I think one of the most remarkable aspects of this film is that it was curated with significant input from two of Mercury’s closest friends – two of the remaining members of Queen – Brian May and Roger Taylor. May and Taylor embarked on this project in order to conserve Mercury’s privacy and honour his memory in a way that would have pleased the lead singer. As you will see, Mercury wanted nothing more than to produce masterpiece after masterpiece with those dearest to him, and to leave a legacy which encompassed his identity as a performer and an artist. May and Taylor ensured this film celebrates Mercury. Bohemian Rhapsody does not expose more of Mercury’s dirty laundry, but gives context to the scandals and drama that the world has already got its hands on. Our satisfaction with this level of privacy did not seem to be a point of consideration during production: an approach that should be applauded, or at the very least, respected. In this day and age there appears to be a general understanding that we are entitled to every detail, humiliation and love affair in the lives of celebrities, as if we own them. This sense of entitlement has been encouraged by information leaks and the fact that ‘drama’ sells. But in truth, folks, we are not this way entitled. Bohemian Rhapsody shows us this, puts us in our place, and asks us to admire the talent and wonder in the work that Queen sent our way, not froth over the issues that they prefer to keep to themselves.
The final thing I have to say about this film is that if you don’t enjoy it, you will at least respect it. It tells the story of a band of outcasts who produced work of such excellence they left behind a legacy far bigger than themselves. Bohemian Rhapsody focuses of an individual who broke conventions on a scale that we may never see again. For generations Queen’s music has been adored and is still sprinkled throughout our culture today, 30 years on: every time someone sings “We are the champions” after their team wins a game in primary school, every “Bohemian Rhapsody” sing along at parties, every reference to “Another one bites the dust” when talking about CPR. Without Queen, art and our general experiences would be increasingly different today.
Bottom line, go see this Queen sized extravaganza.
Words by Michelle Wakim.