Mom and the Millennial are doing something a little different this week. We’re reviewing a movie. But it’s a movie about music, namely “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Instead of our usual “What We’re Listening To” section, we’ll each be writing about our favorite Queen song.
Millennial: Having never seen a biopic, I was super excited to see “Bohemian Rhapsody,” especially since my boy, Rami Malek, was going to be the star! I didn’t grow up with Queen, but I, of course, came to love them through their recordings and YouTube videos. They left a huge legacy, and Freddie Mercury is such a legend, that I was very happy to hear that they were finally going to make it to the big screen. And since it’s music-based, Mom and I decided to review it for the blog. In the end, the movie was…okay. I liked it overall, but it seemed too fast and covered less than I thought it would. I thought it was a good film, but maybe not a great biopic, especially for Queen.
While the movie wasn’t the best out there, there are many good parts to the film. The actors, I feel, are the best aspect to “Bohemian Rhapsody”. They did such a great job in choosing who would play the band members. They each did such a great job in embodying them and catching even the tiniest of movements. Malek even hired a movement director, just so he could perfect Mercury’s mannerisms even more. Gwilym Lee looked more like Brian May than Brian May looks like Brian May, which I didn’t think was possible. Joseph Mazzello looks almost exactly like John Deacon, and Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor looks amazing with that hair! They really did a great job with casting!
My actual favorite part of the movie was the “Love of My Life” scene, because, even though the Rio performance actually happened much later in 1985, the scene was beautiful and bittersweet, plus it has one of my favorite Queen songs. Mercury showing his fiancee at the time, Mary Austin, the video recording of the song he wrote for her made me tear up and almost cry from the feels. But then it goes to the line that made me so happy that they included, which is Mercury telling Austin that he is bisexual. As someone who identifies as bisexual myself, I was so happy to see that representation in such a big film. But then the moment turns for the worst when Austin basically rejected him as a romantic partner, and also turns to downplaying his bisexuality. The whole scene just caused a great wave of emotion for me, and it was very well portrayed and realistic to me.
And, of course, like the one I mentioned before, some of the events probably never happened or they got moved around in the timeline, but this is a biopic, not a documentary. But I really do feel like the pacing, especially in the beginning, was super fast. They went from hiring Mercury as a singer after their performance as Smile to suddenly performing with him in the band. Then they show them in their crappy van to suddenly touring around the US. There is already a lot of information and stories out there about Queen when they were already famous, but I wanted to see more on the personal side of the band rather than practices and concerts. One thing I never knew, and from what I heard a lot of people didn’t know, that Mercury was Indian! Those kinds of things I wanted to know more about. Some of the scenes seemed kind of problematic, such as when Mercury is talking about going solo, and the whole band gets in an uproar, when in real life, Taylor and May each already had a solo album out! So, I can get maybe putting those things in there purely for film reasons, but they felt inauthentic compared to the rest of the movie.
Mom: I wasn’t as excited about seeing “Bohemian Rhapsody” as you were, partly because music biopics all kind of seem the same to me. But I was happy to see it with you, because I really like Queen. In fact, when I was a preteen and young teen, they were my favorite band for a while. I was curious to see how the band was portrayed and how the music was used in the film. I think my favorite thing about”Bohemian Rhapsody” was the fact that, unlike some music biopics, the film uses the actual music the band made, including live recordings, rather than having Rami Malek and the other actors sing. Frankly, I don’t care if Rami Malek can sing or not. When I listen to Queen, I want to hear Freddie Mercury.
I agree with you about how much the actors looked like the actual band members, especially Gwylim Lee as Brian May. I thought Rami Malik did a great job as Freddie Mercury. Not only did he look like the singer, he also conveyed emotions so effectively in spite of the prosthetics he wore. I agree with you about the pacing. Between scenes, I couldn’t tell if a week had passed, or if five years had gone by. I also would have liked to know more about Mercury’s relationship with his parents; in the movie, his dad seems to go from disapproving for years, to suddenly proud because of one afternoon. I understand why the movie didn’t spend a lot of time on Mercury’s battle with AIDS, but it didn’t play much of a part in the movie at all. I never got a sense of how he really dealt with the diagnosis. It was kind of like, “Hey guys, I have AIDS, let’s put on a show.”
I’m kind of a stickler for accuracy (another reason I don’t often love biopics), and the film took a lot of liberties with the facts. For example, one of the most dramatic arcs of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was Mercury trying to reunite with Queen after years of not playing together in order to appear at Live Aid. In actuality, the band had finished a tour two months before. The reason they were originally not included in the lineup at Live Aid was not because the group was disbanded, but because the concert organizer, musician and humanitarian Bob Geldof, disapproved of their doing a show at Sun City, in apartheid South Africa, a place many musicians at the time boycotted. One thing the movie did get right: “I’m in Love with My Car” is a terrible, terrible song.
My favorite parts of the movie were about the music, not any real or manufactured personal drama. Although I don’t know how much was true, I liked the scenes about the creation and recording of the classic song,“Bohemian Rhapsody.” It reminded me of how truly original and unexpected that song was when it came out. And I loved that they spent a little time focused on Brian May’s guitar part in the song. Brian May was my favorite Queen member, partly because I was really into long, curly hair in those days, but also because I love his sort of baroque guitar style. My other favorite part was the Live Aid concert. It made me wish I’d paid a little more attention to the performance at the time.
All in all, I thought the movie wasn’t bad. The performances were good and the story kept my attention. But the arc was pretty similar to most music biopics: musician works hard to find fame, fame leads to loneliness, musician remembers or learns what’s really important. It just seemed so familiar, and not really special. And Freddie Mercury and Queen really were special. They deserved something more unexpected.
Our Fave Queen Songs
Millennial: Like I mentioned earlier, my favorite song has got to be “Love of My Life,” and I had never heard it before the movie! I just loved that scene so much, and have nonstop listened to it since. It is just so beautiful and bittersweet, about a love lost and broken heart, which fits the scene in “Bohemian Rhapsody” very well. The beautiful piano and harp playing with the slow and almost quiet guitar solo all blend together so well. I am putting the live performance of it at the Rock in Rio 1985 performance that actually shows up in the movie because it is really heartwarming to see so many people coming together to sing a love song, and it brings tears to my eyes.
Mom: My favorite Queen song is probably “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but since I already talked a little about it in the movie review, I’ll choose another favorite: “Under Pressure,” which the band performed with David Bowie. In 1981, when the song was released, I don’t think I would ever have imagined Bowie and Freddie Mercury singing together, but it works really well. According to other band members, the singers became competitive and brought out the best of each other. But the star of the song is that famous bass line. John Deacon, Queen’s bassist, says David Bowie wrote it; Bowie says Deacon had already written it before he arrived to record the song. It’s a great, catchy song, and like so many songs Queen and Bowie recorded separately, really unique and unlike anything else that was out at the time.