I’m taking a slight departure from the 5 Daily Gratitudes. Today I’m at last sharing the movie review for Bohemian Rhapsody, the musical biopic of Queen lead singer, Freddie Mercury. I’ll combine all five of today’s gratitudes with appreciation for this film.
This film stars Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Tom Hollander and Mike Myers. Directed by Byran Singer initially and later by Dexter Fletcher, Bohemian Rhapsody carries a PG-13 rating, for adult themes and language. It has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes.
From Smile to Queen
Bohemian Rhapsody is based on the true story of the rise of the legendary musical group Queen. Initially called Smile, the band has just lost its lead vocalist when a young unknown singer, with the self-given name of Freddie Mercury (Malek), boldly asks to step in as the replacement. The other band members, Brian May (Lee), Roger Taylor (Hardy) and John Deacon (Mazzello), reluctantly agree to let Freddie join the group.
It’s a good decision. Freddie’s gifted voice, high energy dance moves on stage and unwavering sense of self, launches the band onto the road of success. Freddie’s girlfriend at the time, Mary Austin (Boynton), encourages him to find his own sense of style, which he does, outlandishly.
“I love the way you move on stage. The whole room belongs to you. Don’t you see what you can be?” Mary Austin
As they rise in popularity, the band changes their name to Queen, at Freddie’s insistence. They acquire a team of managers, a label deal overseen by Ray Foster (Myers) and a legal advisor, Jim Beach (Hollander), who later assumes the role of sole manager.
Freddie shatters stereotypes as the band gains an extraordinary following. With his showmanship and ability to connect with audiences, and the group’s unconventional and revolutionary sound and lyrics, Queen garners recognition and incredible success. Feeling the need to continually create fresh songs and sounds, the band presents the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” to Foster, eager to release it as a single from their newest album, A Night at the Opera. The six minute long song, with its mix of hard rock, ballad and opera, is deemed too strange and too long by Foster.
The band decides to go out on their own and promote their song…and the rest, as they say, is history.
Live Aid Concert
At the height of their rise to stardom, influenced by people with darker motives, Freddie strikes out on his own for a time. But in trying to launch a solo career, he suffers greatly. Cut off from the band members he considers family, and from Mary, whom he declares is the love of his life, Freddie flounders. He becomes caught in a cycle of drugs, alcohol and outrageous parties that last for days. Ultimately, Freddie returns to Queen and to the friendship with Mary, who has been his anchor throughout his adult life.
The band reunites in time to perform at the Live Aid Concert in July of 1985. Even though he has just received an AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads Queen onto the stage and through one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music.
Rami Malek as Freddie on the left, and Freddie at the real Live Aid Concert, on the right.
My Thoughts on Bohemian Rhapsody
I’ve appreciated the band Queen since my late teens. I have not really understood why, other than I loved their quirky lyrics on some of their songs. They performed a wide range of music, however, from songs with operatic overtones to classic rock to ballads. I’ve turned to their songs over and over again, during my life, and thrilled to movie soundtracks that included “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. When I learned there would be a movie depicting Freddie Mercury and Queen, I was excited.
And I was not disappointed. It’s fun to see how the band came together and hear the beginnings of songs that later inspired the whole world. Those “behind the curtain” type of scenes made me smile.
One of the taglines of the film, however, is what drew me.
“The only thing more extraordinary then their music, is his story. The music you know, the story you don’t.”
Learning about Freddie’s story, I finally discovered why I have always been drawn to Queen.
A Bohemian’s Story
I was inspired by Freddie’s story. Yes, there are dark bits, and sad parts, and his crazy, over the top antics….and there is brilliance, and that powerful sense of self, and his desire to make people, especially people who live on the edges, feel connected. Freddie defied labels. If he called himself anything, it was a misfit. And he wanted other misfits to feel that they belonged to him, to Queen. He had a marvelous way of bringing people together and creating a family.
Rami Malek brings Freddie back to life in amazing ways. He wore a mouth piece, to duplicate Freddie’s endearing overbite. And his singing voice, through the power of technology, was merged with Freddie’s and Canadian singer Marc Martel, whose voice is very similar to Mercury’s. Rami had a movement coach who helped him to duplicate every nuance of Freddie’s mannerisms. All that work shows. Rami becomes Freddie.
The man who shows us who Freddie was, has a wonderful quote that sums up what inspires me about the Queen lead singer.
“Freddie was a revolutionary. He was a defiant human being who refused to be segregated and marginalized in any way. You couldn’t put a label on him and what he wanted to do is live his most authentic self. And I think that’s what he preached with his music, and his relationship with his audience…to be exactly what you want to be. I hope people can sing as loudly as Freddie did and own every truth of theirs, and not feel like they have to hide anything…and to enjoy exactly who they were meant to be.” Rami Malek
Yes, those words, that’s it. He shone brightly, Freddie Mercury did, and for too brief of a time. I wished I’d known more about him while he lived.
And so my gratitudes today are these: I am grateful for movies like Bohemian Rhapsody that give me a deeper glimpse into an extraordinary life. My appreciation for Freddie Mercury has expanded. I’m thankful for his music, for his life and most of all, for his desire to be who he knew he was created to be. He offered himself to the world through his music. And my bohemian spirit connects with this man, this self proclaimed misfit, and joins his rhapsody, his enthusiastic, ecstatic expression of being.