By LRK for Deets and Geets Podcast
The dictionary definition of bohemian (aside from pertaining to the actual place Bohemia):
a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.
Dictionary definition of rhapsody:
- music . an instrumental composition irregular in form and suggestive of improvisation.
- an ecstatic expression of feeling or enthusiasm.
- an epic poem, or a part of such a poem, as a book of the Iliad, suitable for recitation at one time.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” seems a very fitting title for the life of Freddie Mercury as it is shown to us in this movie and the eponymous Queen hit which was written by Freddie Mercury in 1975.
Rami Malek breathed life into Farrokh Bulsara-turned Freddy Mercury, showing us someone who was insecure and brazenly flamboyant at the same time. I didn’t know too much about Freddie’s personal life or personality before watching this movie and I don’t know to what extent it was fully accurate, but I was feeling it throughout. It gave off the essence of someone who felt lonely and suffocated, but liberated and in his element while he was performing. That’s exactly the vibe of the song.
Before this movie came out there was controversy surrounding it with people saying it was going to be whitewashed or straightwashed or it was going to erase his HIV and none of those things were true. After the release other criticisms were levied on it such as bisexual erasure, because after Freddie tells his long-time girlfriend Mary “I think I might be bisexual,” she says “Freddie, you’re gay.” To me, this wasn’t the film taking a stand on his sexuality, it was an example of the context he lived in and the ways that the people around him who he loved couldn’t fully understand or support him and may have inadvertently caused confusion or suffering to him. That scene also seemed to be more about Mary’s self-preservation, like she had to believe he was incapable of being attracted to her to reconcile still staying in each other’s lives.
Freddie as an individual was deeply layered, complex, and uncommon on all levels especially in his time. There doesn’t seem a way you could fully do justice to everything he was in a two-hour-and-some-change film. There’s any number of directions that could have been further developed including his Parsi heritage and how that affected his personality and his beliefs, but this film is also about him as an artist and about Queen as a band. I think on the whole it did a good balancing of showing his personal life and his professional life and his pathos as an artist. If anything I would have liked to see more of the creative process that went behind the music, such as different versions of the songs and how they got edited; I’m sure it wasn’t quite as linear as they showed it sometimes. Also although I didn’t see the film as vilifying queerness, I do think it’s a fair point that it did come off as a PSA for Queen and for the almost-nobility of Mercury’s band members as being a thorough brotherly support system that themselves never got into drugs or had any negative lifestyle influence on him.
I’m happy that Freddie Mercury has been put on the map of public consciousness as a Parsi Indian and that he was played by an Egyptian American. He was also shown having sexual and romantic relationships at least one woman as well as men, and that’s more than what we generally see. Other than that, the storytelling itself isn’t something super original or groundbreaking but if you’re a fan of the music, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t enjoy watching the movie.
Check out the enhanced video version of the review below: