For those who didn’t read the About section of this website, the author of these words is a massive Queen fan, the way Stan was a massive Eminem fan. And the site’s name, Greatest Hits, naturally relates to the band’s historical compilation album, to this day the best selling album of all time in the UK, a country whose impeccable musical taste is inversely proportionate to its questionable culinary traditions.
Anyway… Bohemian Rhapsody: after years of waiting, all sorts of contradicting news about production delays and casting changes, the first biopic ever made on the history of Queen and its frontman, the late great Freddie Mercury (real name: Farrokh Bulsara, as stated in the film), finally goes out in theaters today. For US audiences, that is: the UK has already enjoyed the oeuvre for a week, while France - where yours truly currently resides - had a Wednesday release. In other words, I’ve seen the film two days ago. And I’ll likely see it again soon.
Now, let us be clear: in terms of movies in general and biopics in particular, Bohemian Rhapsody is not the greatest ever made. I may be too close to the material (I knew all of the anecdotes, except for a couple minor ones which I suspect were added in the script), but I will contend that the sequencing of stories, periods and events could have been built in a more powerfully way had the likes of an Aaron Sorkin tried their hand on the plot. At times, you do feel like the film is a stylish, yet somewhat didactic succession of famous (and infamous) stories taken from the lore of one of Britain’s - and the world’s - most iconic musical outfits.
That being said… it’s still f*****g fantastic, darling. First of all, the actual story of Queen and Freddie are the stuff of legends: a young, gay Indian kid who goes to London and starts one of the most outrageous and groundbreaking bands of all times, while creating a unique blend of classical, rock, pop, metal music and everything in between — it would sound ridiculous if it was made up. Second, the direction of the film is, indeed, truly beautiful: we’ve all known for a while that Bryan Singer is an outstanding talent, but it shows yet again here, through dynamic, colourful and incredibly varied shots of 15 years in the life of Queen. A particular moment of pleasure for the fan in me came when the camera crawled under Freddie Mercury’s grand piano and up Brian May’s guitar as they were shown performing at the now-historical 1985 Live Aid show at the old Wembley stadium. So much better than the old VHS tape, I tell you!
Finally, the greatest asset of Bohemian Rhapsody is undoubtedly its lead actor, Rami Malek. Casting him may have taken a while, but it sure was worth it: Malek creates a mesmerizingly accurate portrayal of Mercury, with all the onstage - and offstage - mannerisms down to a tee and the same sense of grandiosity Mercury showcased every day of his - public - life. An amazing feat when the model is none other than the greatest rock performer the world has ever seen (again, fan talk here). The final sequence of the film, featuring the aforementioned Live Aid show, quite simply feels like as a real live performance, with Malek perfectly embodying Mercury and everything he represented for a generation of listeners: freedom from all norms, unbridled creativity and an absolutely unique sense of showmanship.
Bohemian Rhapsody is the music video of Queen and Freddie’s life we’ve all been waiting for. Go watch it.
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