MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
I hesitated at first going to see Bohemian Rhapsody due to the general critical drubbing that the film had received from the media. After watching the movie (and really enjoying it), I am convinced that there was a general consensus that Bohemian Rhapsody somehow failed to tell the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen in an honest (warts and all) fashion, choosing to soft pedal the excesses of the Seventies in order to make a traditional musical biopic.
While I am sure that there are other ways to tell this story, I appreciate the film’s PG-13 mindset and its relatively innocent point of view, primarily because there are younger viewers who need to be introduced to the wonderful hook-laden songs of Queen. It is of even greater value for all of us to revisit the awkward sexual culture of the Seventies and Eighties in which heterosexual freedom ran rampant and homosexuality was kept in the shadows.
Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar; his family was Parsi and moved to Middlesex, England in 1964 to escape religious persecution (his father has a position with the British Colonial Office). Freddie was a gifted vocalist with a four-octave range who joined guitarist Brian May (Lee), drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) to create Queen. The band had a distinctive sound that set it apart from a number of other glam rock bands of the era. Their musicianship was stellar with distinctive close harmonies. Most of their lyrics are borderline silly, but their songs are so catchy they still hold up today, including their six-minute mini-opera “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
The movie does a nice job showing the camaraderie of the bandmates and Freddie’s long-time love and friendship with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). But just as his stage persona worked to hide his ethnicity, Mercury struggled with his gender fluidity and could never openly embrace or share his gender identity with the public.
This film has been criticized by some for demonizing homosexuality, but I feel that the movie does an honest job in depicting the oppressiveness of the era. As Freddie is offered millions of dollars to become a solo artist and leaves the band to travel to Germany for a “full prodigal son” experience, the film shows the struggles he faced as well as moments of self-realization, repentance, and forgiveness. This may indeed be an oversimplification of reality, but it is still a great and timely message.
Bohemian Rhapsody utilizes actual recordings of Queen for its soundtrack, including their incredible comeback performance at the 1985 Live Aid Benefit Concert. Rami Malik gives a soulful performance as Mercury that shows us his quiet side as well as his flamboyant showmanship as the front man for one of the great bands of all time. It’s a crowd-pleasing movie that knows how to rock out and also touch the heart.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Three halos: There are positive messages about diversity and acceptance in this tune-filled biopic.
Two pitchforks: Mild sexual innuendo, occasional PG-13 swearing, excessive drinking and implied drug use.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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