As a dumb millennial who tries to review and write about pop culture in general on the internet, I want to say off top that I love Queen. As a young child it was melted into my brain from my father that classic rock is the superior genre. With bands like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, and so forth a constant fixture in my upbringing, I have grown a huge appreciation for that genre as I have grown. One band that came on to my library late was Queen. Not sure why, but the variety and experimental sounds they used from the jump immediately got my attention, especially since I definitely shy away from anything that’s not loud, hard hitting, and different than the pop garbage found on the radio. The real cherry on top was the incredible vocals from Freddy Mercury. I still argue to this day that if his solo career was done right and things didn’t end the way he did Freddy could have been better than Michael Jackson. Don’t @ me.
When this film was slated to be made, I was very intrigued from the jump. For those who don’t know the entire production history, Bohemian Rhapsody was first gonna be a straight biopic of Freddy Mercury and the rise of Queen, with Sasha Baron Cohen (yes the dude who played Borat) slated to star as the frontman. This later was changed due to Cohen dropping out because of “interference and wanting to protect Freddy’s image” from Brian May, who was the executive music producer. Keep that in mind as you read the rest of this post. Cohen was replaced by Mr. Robot star Rami Malek, who at the time I thought was a good replacement but I wanted to see how he looked and preformed.
Now that I have seen this film and digested it, I can confidently say that this movie is a MAJOR disappointment. The story in its whole was fine, but littered with missed potential in story beats as well as complete historical inaccuracies throughout it. The plot is pretty much just the start of Queen and some behind the scene/music in the lead up to the legendary Live Aid concert. There is very little insight to the life of Freddy Mercury, which I understand he had some demons and obviously lived a very rock and roll lifestyle. The problem with that is this movie is heavily advertised as a Biopic of Freddy and not a biopic of the band. There wasn’t enough backstory of the rest of the band to qualify it as such, and so little of the true backstory of Freddy to be his biopic.
The acting is fine for the most part, and I will give credit to Malek as he does capture the essence of Mercury as a performer, but as the person I felt he was kinda one dimensional and trying to impersonate Mercury. The writing and portrayal of the character is what really bothers me. Throughout the movie, you see Mercury become this ginormous asshole and ultimately leave Queen briefly to go solo. News flash, this never happened. Queen did take a break from touring yes, but Freddy never left and they actually released a new album in between the two years they were not touring. Im sure this was done for dramatic effect, like a lot of the inaccuracies are, but Jesus tell the actual story. Bend the truth a little bit if you want, but don’t make stuff up. Speaking of creating false narratives, the record executive from EMI, the label that Queen was originally on, was not a real person. Apparently it was loosely based on someone, ala Mark Wahlberg in Patriot’s Day. This dude was literally just executive Fat Bastard from Austin Powers. The funny thing is, the character was literally Mike Myers aka Austin Powers aka Fat Bastard. As soon as I heard the fake accent I was dying in my seat laughing because all I could picture was Fat Bastard.
Another issue that bothered me was the ending moment. Freddy is completely coked out and having orgies every day, then realized he was wrong and joined Queen again to preform at Live Aid. Then he was diagnosed with AIDS and was starting to get sick before the big concert. Again, another known historical piece of information that was changed horribly for the movie. The movie says he knew he had aids and then preformed at Live aid in 1986. Live Aid was in 1985, and Mercury wasn’t diagnosed officially in 1987, but wasn’t public knowledge until later. The idea of Live Aid and what it represented was a dramatic beat enough to not have his illness be the backdrop of doing it. If before the concert he alluded to he was sick and told his fellow bandmates is one thing, but don’t lie to my face like that. I will give credit to where its due though, in that the Live Aid scene is one of the best music based scenes in a movie I have seen in a while. After I saw that I watched the actual performance that’s on YouTube. The concert moments in the movie were cool too, but lacked some power and actual performance outside of Live Aid.
I think the real problem was the “protection” and “influence” of Brian May and Roger Taylor to a lesser degree. I was hoping for a true in depth look into one of the most iconic bands/singer of all time, and instead what I got was a false narrative with a sense of a jealous Ex girlfriend/boyfriend trying to disgrace a legend. If you are reading this Brian May, I want you to know I don’t hate you. I respect you for who you are and what you have done. But, you sir have royally fucked up. I don’t care if Freddy Mercury was shooting meth in a Topeka rest stop blowing three truckers before a performance. I don’t care if the actual break of the band was a mutual and lackluster story and wasn’t because you actually hated each other. I don’t care if you wanted to course correct the creation of one of the biggest anthems of all time and not give credit to where it is due to who may or may not have written it. Just tell me the real shit. I’m a big boy, I can take it if there were points in Freddy’s life he was a dickhead or was battling some bad demons. It doesn’t change the legend of him or make us think less of him. It’s a noble act for wanting to protect your late bandmate and friend, as well as the band itself. But, that doesn’t mean you can change his life for better or worse. If Sasha Baron Cohen had a better narrative that was more true to life, let him make it.
I do think this is a fine movie and should be seen, but take it with a grain of salt. If you love Queen or wanted to know more about the backstory, just go on google and do your proper research, as this movie does not do that. if you have the AMC A-List or still give your hard earn money to the crooks at Moviepass, use a reservation and see this movie, especially in Dolby Cinema which was an audio blast in the balls. If you don’t have one of these services, first of all get it it’s more than a good value, but think before you see. Currently it has a Rotten Tomato critic score of 60% and a viewer score of 94%, which is wild but whatever. This is a perfect movie for renting on iTunes or waiting for Netflix to get it for streaming.
Score: fuck you Brian May, release the Cohen Cut.