Bohemian Rhapsody is a great reminder of Freddie Mercury and Queen’s music. As a bio-pic, though, it comes across as rather too gay obsessive.
Bohemian Rhapsody Synopsis
Farrokh Bulsara, stage name Freddie Mercury, is remembered for many different things. He’s a legendary rocker, a talented musician, a flamboyant performer. He’s also a closet homosexual and one of the most famous and beloved artistes to die of AIDS in the 90s. This two-hour biopic follows Freddie’s incredible career from an unknown British Parsi baggage handler to an icon of modern music. It culminates with Queen’s jubilant Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985. A performance today still considered one of the greatest ever.
To repeat what I wrote in the synopsis, I feel it’s impossible to define Freddie Mercury with any one description, because the man is starkly different things to different people.
In my opinion, Sacha Baron Cohen wasn’t purely aiming for comedic effect years ago with Borat’s misconception of Freddie Mercury as a “ladies’ man” too. As recently as four years ago, an acquaintance of mine expressed utter disbelief when told the legendary rocker led quite an active homosexual lifestyle.
There’s also, expectedly, the other end of the spectrum. Those who still go, “yeah, good singer, but he’s gay and died of AIDS, you know.” As if that had any correlation with Freddie’s music.
The point here is, the above makes it impossible to comprehensively define the man with a two-hour show. Condensation and selection are paramount, and what’s picked is what makes or breaks the movie.
In the case of Bohemian Rhapsody, as much as I enjoyed Rami Malek’s incredible portrayal, I felt the story obsessed too much over Freddie’s homosexuality and promiscuity. While relevant, the over-emphasis compromised too many other aspects of the legendary performer’s life.
To give an example, the movie never does explore the depths of the relationships between Freddie and the other members of Queen. It simply tells you they consider each other “family.” Wouldn’t the detailed exploration of the dynamics between them be fascinating? And insightful?
Why so much focus on Freddie’s bedroom adventures when his life was so much more?
On the flip side, it’s undeniable that the music sets are exhilarating. If you’re looking for a sampler, a reminder of Queen’s greatest hits, the movie certainly doesn’t fail. (The faithful enactment of the legendary 1985 Live Aid performance is positively euphoric too).
In short, I didn’t leave the cinema feeling entirely disappointed. Actually, I went home feeling quite high from the music. It’s when the rush died that I realised, hey, I didn’t learn much about Freddie beyond what’s commonly known. As loving a tribute as Bohemian Rhapsody is, musically speaking, I have to say this realisation left a hollow feeling.
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