MERCURIAN RHAPSODY — The success of an anachronistic biopic.
Let's get this out of the way: Bohemian Rhapsody - the Queen biopic - doesn't always make chronological sense and runs through a timeline that's been rearranged to push a narrative for the sake of making a good movie. Movie critics and Queen die-hards have been relentless in the expression of their disappointment towards regarding the biopic’s anachronism. And yet, the 2018 film about the iconic rock band was a box office smash. Even better yet, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has awarded the movie and its star each a Golden Globe for their tremendous work in bringing the rockstar back to life. So why is Bohemian Rhapsody so popular despite its glaring flaws?
It's simple, really.
The Resurrection of Freddie Mercury There is no denying that the Queen frontman was a legend. For many, myself included, he was as close to a deity as any strangely-relatable rockstar can be. Buck toothed, flamboyant, lonely, crazy about cats, intensely private with a very complicated relationship with his own sexuality, he's essentially the patron saint of any music geek who's ever had a foot in the closet. In Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami Malek brought our lord and sinner back to life. From his bell-bottom days to the mustachioed sexual dynamo with whom the world fell in love hard and fast, the transformation of Farrokh Bulsara into Freddie Mercury is intense, awkward, and captivating all at once. Malek's portrayal of the legend is not only masterful and respectful, but it's also uncanny. The mannerism, accent, speech patterns, cockiness, stage presence... everything is spot on, giving chills and thrills to all those who dare put themselves through the emotional rollercoaster that is Bohemian Rhapsody.
Rami Malek brings Freddie Mercury to life in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
The Soundtrack Queen has composed some of the greatest music of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. With an impressive fifteen albums recorded during Mercury's too-short life, the band created hit after hit, crossing genres and breaking every rule in the book in the process. The soundtrack to Bohemian Rhapsody is full of those grandiose songs, from the sorrowful yet beautiful “Love of My Life” to the greatest contribution to music in centuries, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Devout Queen freak or not, there is no denying that the music in this epic biopic slaps.
Not only are Queen songs peppered throughout the movie, but the musical genius the four men exhibited during their career is on full display. Whether they are showing the world how inventive the quartet was when recording their first album or how timeless hits like "Another One Bites the Dust" and "We Will Rock You" came about, every musical moment in this film is a treat.
The Cinematography All things Queen aside, Bohemian Rhapsody is a beautiful movie. Not only in its plot, its well-chosen cast (though Gwilym Lee as Brian May is truly a sight to behold) or its music, but in its visuals and their ability to conjure tears out of nothing.
The zeal with which Queen’s historic Live Aid performance was recreated will be talked about for years to come, but there's more to Bohemian Rhapsody than its last 20 minutes. There is no denying that Mercury’s reflection in his piano as he plays and sings “Bohemian Rhapsody” in front of thousands and the near-perfect recreation of iconic concerts and appearances throughout Queen's illustrious career are all visually breathtaking and make for stirring moments, but it's the non-musical scenes that fuck you up the most.
Through exquisite camera work, beautiful costumes, and impressive acting, viewers feel the ups and downs of the history of Queen to their core. Between the blurry maelstrom of anger, anxiety, and discomfort during a particularly hostile press conference, the reflection of Mercury's doctor in the singer's signature aviator glasses as he hangs his head in despair after his diagnosis, and the empty hospital waiting rooms drawing parallels with the isolation people infected with HIV felt at the peak of the AIDS crisis, there is not a frame depicting Mercury's life of turmoil that wasn't carefully crafted to illicit the rawest emotions in each viewer.
I was warned before I saw the movie that the last 20 minutes would be nothing but tears. That was accurate, but so was most of the movie. Because despite its glaring flaws, Bohemian Rhapsody is a painful reminder that some of the brightest stars die off eons before their time. Rami Malek portrayed Mercury with such grace and reverence that he made it easy to forget for two hours that the seminal musical story unfolding before our very eyes ends in a tragedy.
And who doesn’t want to live in a world where Freddie Mercury still lives, even for just 2 hours?