“Bohemian Rhapsody,” like many biopics, is a basic summary of history, with an eye on simplifying for brevity and drama. Some basic events in their timeline were changed by years, to squeeze everything into a story that can triumphantly end with Queen’s Live Aid performance.
It’s a glossy, colorful and even tender reminder of singer Freddy Mercury’s (born Farrrokh Bulsara of Indian-Parsi descent) incredible influence today. With a PG-13 rating, the movie was tuned for a wider audience.
The film was directed by Bryan Singer and runs 2 hours 14 minutes.
This movie slightly pushes the PG-13 rating with language and depictions of Mercury’s lifestyle, telling the story of possibly the 20th century’s most famous bisexual man. Parental guidance is suggested, but themes stay within safe bounds for teens.
Casting is uncanny — in fact the player who looked the least like the real-life icon was Egyptian Rami Malek, who stepped into Mercury’s life and embodied him, nailing his flamboyant swagger, and his voice.
Because the production used the official band archivist, details like bass player John Deacon’s sock choices were accurate to real life.
Queen guitarist May and drummer Roger Taylor had been pushing for a biographicical movie for many years, and were often on set, even helping the actors with the music.
Their goal, according to History vs. Hollywood, was to tell the story holding everything “in balance,” which they did.
The movie highlighted the individual band mates’ brainy science-based educations, and never ignored their musical contributions. Of course, Malek’s Mercury was the center of the show, as he was in real life.
At the start of the film, his portrayal seemed exaggerated, like a James Bond movie villain with jutting teeth. Mercury’s real teeth were actually a source of insecurity for him, and Malek wore prosthetics for the film.
The movie detailed his growing isolation from his band family due to lifestyle differences — as they were getting married and having children, Mercury was not.
He hid behind drugs, alcohol and sex. Longtime friend Mary Austin, portrayed by Lucy Boynton, brings him back down to earth leading to a resolution with the band.
The live rock performances are sonically muscular, and punched with color and lights, taking the viewer closer to the show than they ever could have been.
The stunning Live Aid stadium performance was practically shot for shot the real thing, bringing the story to a crescendo.
The movie grabbed me emotionally. Mercury died in 1991 when I was 10, before I could appreciate the performer that he was. Overall it was a fun movie, made for fans, but probably won’t ever make the Criterion Collection of important classic films.
There were major breaks from reality. For example, the band never broke up as depicted, and there was no record executive (played by Mike Myers) refusing to release “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single.
This scene was funny and intentionally ironic, considering Myers fought for the song to be used in “Wayne’s World” (1992), bringing the song to American teens and revitalizing their popularity.