Bohemian Rhapsody (dir. Bryan Singer), just like Freddie Mercury himself, is dividing opinion. Since its late-October release, critics have been bickering over whether it’s just ‘too much’, or if it’s all the drama Mercury himself would have wanted. I stand with the latter.
My father attended the screening with me – he’s been a self-described die-hard Queen fan since Bohemian Rhapsody (the song, not the movie) was released, and I thought he’d be a good litmus test as the average Queen fan. Of course, I’m familiar with their music, and recognise Freddie as the national treasure he is – but I didn’t wait in line for 16 hours to ensure I’d get a front row seat at one of their concerts.
Let’s get qualms out of the way so I can later gush, uninterrupted. As much as I hate to align myself with general critical reception, I must agree that the film can’t decide if it’s a biopic of Freddie’s life, or the band itself. Freddie is our focal point, certainly, but the narrative begins with Queen’s formation, and ends with their (addmittedly legendary) Live Aid performance. Paralleling the narrative indecision, the cinematography seems to jump between 80s graphics for montage sequences, modern typeface for time and location, and editing that changes pace with abandon.
“I was delighted to see the recognition of Freddie as a bisexual man of colour. It is important to remember that a man who is an icon to many of the ‘mainstream’ music fans out there was not white, and was not heterosexual”
These are, of course, just the musings of your average pretentious film student. Because whilst those previous notes are a culmination of my critical consideration, I walked out of the cinema in tears. Bohemian Rhapsody is an utterly stunning film. It plays on your heartstrings like a harp. The nods to the audience that play on dramatic irony don’t feel too forced or cheesy, Freddie’s mistakes (and indeed those of the entire band) are highlighted, but they all remain sympathetic. The love and respect for Queen, and their music, can be felt through the entire film like a beating heart. I’m a sucker for movies that are so clearly a labour of love, and there’s no question that that is exactly what Bohemian Rhapsody is.
On a personal note, as representation on screen is an issue close to my heart, I was also delighted to see the recognition of Freddie as a bisexual man of colour. His deep love for both Mary and Jim (long term girlfriend and boyfriend of Freddie respectively) is depicted, as is his migrant family. It is important to remember that a man who is an icon to many of the ‘mainstream’ music fans out there was not white, and was not heterosexual.
In short, this film is a camp, thunderous fanfare, brimming with dramaticism, energy, excellent acting, directing, and a deep and passionate love for a band that changed the world. At one point in the film, the band all state their audience is “the kids in the back of the room, who don’t feel like they belong”. And really, isn’t that all of us?