The year is 1970. The location, Heathrow Airport, in London, England, where twenty-four year old, college graduate, Farrokh Bulsara, is working as a baggage handler. The job, as you can imagine, is devoid of creativity, and has nothing to do with the Art and Graphic Design diploma, he earned at Ealing Art College; his current employment, however, is a temporary setback. Farrokh has big dreams, big creative musical dreams to be exact. Those dreams will cease to be that, and transformed into a reality, in a relatively short amount of time. When that happens, however, the world will not know Farrokh by his birth name, but instead as Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the band “Queen.” The part of Freddie Mercury is completely embodied, in an outstanding performance, by Rami Malek (Mr. Robot); he would go on to win the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Mercury. The catalyst which sets everything into motion, is when Mercury goes to hear a pub band called “Smile” which is playing a local gig. “Smile” consists of guitarist, Brian May, played by Gwilym Lee (Jamestown), and drummer, Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), along with Freddie, and bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello), the four men will become the founding members of “Queen.” (As an aside: Golden Globe winner Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) was originally selected to play the part of Freddie Mercury).
Freddie always the forward thinker when there are goals to obtain, insists that the band sells their most valuable possession, the van they tour in, so they can get enough money to record an album. The album is very well received by record executive, Ray Foster, played by Emmy winner Mike Myers (Saturday Night Live), at EMI (Electric and Musical Industries). Shortly after recording the album, John Reid, a role acted by BAFTA nominee Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) begins to manage the group. “Queen” also have their legal interests looked after by attorney Jim Beach, portrayed by BAFTA winner Tom Hollander (The Night Manager); at Freddie’s insistence, Jim agrees to be called Miami Beach. With a team in place to guide them, “Queen” begins touring America to sellout crowds, which is shown to the viewer via a montage that features the song “Fat Bottomed Girls.” While “Queen” is on tour, sitting at home, anxiously awaiting Freddie’s return, is his fiancée, Mary Austin, portrayed by Lucy Boynton (Sing Street). She is someone who Freddie truly loves, but he’s keeping a secret from her, that he has an attraction and desire to be with men, something which the tour allows him to act on, without Mary’s knowledge. I don’t think it is a spoiler to anyone, to let it be known, that Mary does eventually find out, but, she is as understanding as any heartbroken person could be, and she remains one of Freddie’s closest friends and confidants for the remainder of his life. (As an aside: Freddie also maintained a relationship from 1985 until his death in 1991 with a man named Jim Hutton. In the film, Hutton’s character is given some screen time, and is played by Aaron McCusker (Dexter).
One of the complaints I had heard prior to watching “Bohemian Rhapsody” is that it focuses the story on Freddie Mercury’s life and career, to the exclusion of the other band members. I agree with that to an extent, that the other members of “Queen” certainly don’t get their own individual stories fully fleshed out, but the actors portraying Brian, Roger, and Dean are crucial to the overall success of the film. In addition to Mercury’s story, the film focuses on “Queen’s” rise to international superstardom. Along the way, it gets into certain aspects of how some of their hit songs, which are known the world over, and still popular to this day, were created. Like many success stories, all was not great behind the scenes, and there were dark times and problems the band had to face; some were of a personal nature, while others were professional disagreements, some of which caused major friction among the four members of the band. For example, the smarmy tactics utilized by Freddie’s personal manager, Paul Prenter, played by Allen Leech (Downton Abbey), who wanted Freddie’s time and stardom to benefit him to the exclusion of all others. The more time that passed, the more duplicitous Prenter became when dealing with people who were involved in Freddie’s life, including, for instance, Mary.
The film, to be sure, is formulaic, but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of it. I know a number of critics, as well as some of my fellow bloggers, who were not enthralled that the filmmakers decided to go that cinematic route, and that’s fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I was not the biggest “Queen” fan during my teenage years; I was more of a heavy metal and “AC/DC,” hard rock kind of music fan, as well as other groups too numerous to mention. I liked several of their very popular songs, and I held the same opinion, held by many people I know, that Mercury, their lead singer, had a phenomenal singing voice, but that was the extent of my knowledge of “Queen” and their music, when I was growing up. The information presented was of interest to me, because most of what was shown and or discussed, was brand new information for me, so I learned quite a bit from the film.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” premiered in London on October 23, 2018. The film was directed, in part, by four time Emmy nominee Bryan Singer (House). The reason I use the phrase ‘in part’ was because Singer was fired as the director, and the film was completed by three time BAFTA nominee Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill). The official credits, however, have kept Singer’s name as the director, while crediting Fletcher as an executive producer. The screenplay was written by two time BAFTA winner Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything) and was based on a story that he co-wrote with Golden Globe winner Peter Morgan (The Queen). Part biography – drama – and musical, the film has a runtime of 134 minutes. For fans of “Queen” this is a must see, if for no other than the following reasons: Malek’s performance of the eccentric singer Freddie Mercury, which as mentioned earlier, is absolutely brilliant. Furthermore, the incredible re-enactment by all the actors portraying the members of “Queen” of the band’s performance at the Live Aid Concert to benefit famine in Africa, which was held on July 13, 1985 at Wembley Stadium in London.