As a result of the mixed reviews being published about Bohemian Rhapsody, I went into the theatre unsure of what to expect. I had heard the pace was slow, the content was exaggerated, and most of all, that it hid Freddie Mercury’s bisexuality. But for me, those reviews couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Queen is incredibly special to England—if you ask any English person about their taste in music, chances are they will mention Queen. Even if they don’t actively listen to them, they’ll more than likely have an understanding and respect for what Queen means to England.
Their music embodies a sort of rebellion and rise against convention that is often found at the heart of English culture, and Freddie Mercury himself symbolises a defiance against stereotypes in his unabashed existence.
As a result, it would make sense that reviews about Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody would be particularly critical, as audiences more than likely went in with very high expectations and had hoped that the film would uphold a certain image of Queen.
As for me, I couldn’t have possibly enjoyed the film more if I tried. It was one of the better movie theatre experiences I’ve had this year.
First and foremost, it is safe to say that Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury was perhaps the role he was always meant to play. This is a constant that most critics seem to agree upon, regardless of overall opinions of the film.
It’s hard to assess whether I judged the film as well as I should have, because I was very invested in Malek’s performance to give a critical eye to other facets of the film. But that truly was one of the most beautiful parts of the film; Malek’s performance was emotional, passionate and fun, and everything else seemed to fall into place around him.
As for the details of Mercury’s sexuality, I believe that it beautifully painted a picture of the events that lead him to becoming the sexually confident rockstar that everyone knew him as. The first half of the film depicted the time where he was married to Mary Austin, while simultaneously questioning his sexuality and attempting to shield his bisexual side.
The second half of the film unabashedly demonstrates his acceptance of his sexuality and his catapult into life as a bisexual man. This half of his life (and subsequently, this half of the film) also shows his diagnosis of AIDS, which critics argue the film didn’t go into enough detail about. However, I appreciate the film for keeping out these details; the specificities of AIDS can often be incredibly gruesome, and most fans of Queen know how much Mercury suffered during this time. The film stood as a love letter to Queen and therefore didn’t feel the need to convey extraneous details of his suffering.
Some critics argue—and I agree—that there was a lot that this film glossed over in terms of the telling of Freddie Mercury’s life. But it’s important to remember that in an 134 minute biopic, there’s only so much that can be told—especially when it comes to Mercury, whose life would need an encyclopedia to tell in full.
Additionally, the film’s main focus is on Queen—it isn’t meant to tell only Mercury’s story. The film shows the audience how Queen came to be, the origins of their music, and the relationship between band members. I would argue that focusing solely on the events within Mercury’s life would be a disservice to Queen as a whole, because the band was made up of so much life. In addition, the members of the band were heavily involved in the making of the film, and specified what they did and didn’t want to be told.
I can’t recommend enough that you see Bohemian Rhapsody as soon as you can—if you get the chance, seeing it in theatres feels like an actual rock concert.