By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
The songs from Queen make up how the biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, flows than the life of the frontman. Quite often, musicians sing about those experiences in life considered very important to them. In this work, they are wrapped around how Farrokh Bulsara (Freddie Mercury, played by Rami Malek) face reality. Is he a Great Pretender, or something else? I was amused at how this non-Queen song is slyly referenced within minutes of the film’s start. The precedent is set.
In musicals, the tunes help bookend key themes. In a movie partly directed by Bryan Singer and finished by Dexter Fletcher is in how this lead singer comes to face life in his rise to stardom. Important in this work is in how the introduction sees this lad of Indian descent, now living in Britain, deals with living on his own, “Somebody to Love,” is the first track heard. When young Bulsara does not want to become part of the family business (much less his heritage), he’s ready to move out. The early 70s was a time when the music scene exploded in many ways. Many talents we consider legends today were just getting started.
Only so much exposition can be offered in a 130-minute film about a band nearly 50 years old. It’s less about the facts and more about the drama. A lot about their early years blazes through very fast. Just how they met and formed is entirely wrong. When the film slows down, a cursory look at Freddie’s lifestyle is offered and no thought bubbles are showing up. A few seconds of witnessing the genesis of Queen’s best hits tease fans with a thought of this is neat. The time spent on “Bohemian Rhapsody” showed the difficulties the band was facing with the labels and in how they sought to further broaden their sound. At least for “Another One Bites the Dust,” Brian May (Gwilym Lee) said he wanted a song that would get audiences participating, foot stomping to, and he succeeded.
The other songs alluding to Freddie’s life and times include “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and the one woman he fully trusted was Lucy Boynton. “Love of My Life,” is her song. As for how or when he became promiscuous, only a fleeting tease is offered. This detail is best left explored as a documentary. “I Want to Break Free” is very much about his coming out. Freddie embraced the rock star attitude; He was no doubt on a collision course if he did not mend his ways. Had he been grounded and understood the risks he was taking, I doubt he would have stopped. Until he found another partner who could fully trust, he was “Headlong” (not used in this film) all right, till the very end.
Even though the real-life (surviving) counterparts served as executive music producers, I still wonder if they were consulted as the screenplay was being written and rewritten. I kept tabs on this film’s progress ever since it was announced in 2015. While I knew a lot of time will be spent on Freddie, I hoped something can be said about each member, especially Roger Taylor and John Deacon. The latter is the quietest member of them all, though he does get credit for making the riff known in “Another One Bites the Dust.”
Like the current team-up which operates as Queen (Brian May and Roger Taylor), this film is not about what to admonish about this lead singer’s life. It’s to recognize him as a superstar, “You’re a legend,” said Taylor in the film. Not even the Queen + Adam Lambert concerts or the It’s a Kinda Magic experience (tribute band) are out to bring this legend back to life. It’s all about having that experience and having a good time at one of their shows. You gotta like it, otherwise, why see them at all?
4 Stars out of 5