November 1, 2018/
No matter what era you grew up in, the music of Queen and reputation of Freddie Mercury has undoubtedly impacted you in some way. Bohemian Rhapsody brings their story to life – warts and all.
Documenting Queen’s rise to fame and Freddie (Rami Malek)’s evolution as an iconic lead singer, Bohemian Rhapsody traces Freddie’s start as a migrant from Zanzibar, through to a period of substance abuse, and his eventual AIDS diagnosis. Book-ended by the bands historic 1985 Live Aid performance, the concert is used to symbolise their personal triumph in reuniting, and public legacy in seeing £1million donated during their set.
Knowing Freddie’s story and his flamboyancy as an entertainer there’s no shying away from the adult themes in Bohemian Rhapsody. Freddie was engaged to Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) before pursuing same-sex relationships, and struggled with his sexuality on the world stage. He became increasingly isolated and lonely when others in the band had families, which (the movie suggests) influenced the darker period of his career.
Depending on your opinion of Freddie Mercury, what you take away from Bohemian Rhapsody will vary. To those who view him as an icon for the unconventional, his tenacious confidence is on full display. Freddie wore what he liked, choose his own name, and wouldn’t let Queen’s sound be stifled by ‘stodgy’ music execs. Even though Freddie seemed conflicted about his identity, he worked it out ‘out loud’.
Seeing Freddie as a talented yet troubled soul, a scene in his lounge room says it all. Sitting opposite Jim Hutton (Freddie’s eventual life partner) a party full of guest’s leaves and Jim tells Freddie he needs a real friend, that his guests are vapid, and only want a taste of his success. Freddie replies admitting his dissatisfaction, saying his greatest challenge is “knowing what to do in the middle”: between the accolades, when the band are gone, and it’s just him.
This exchange is one of Bohemian Rhapsody’s most grounded, as we witness a man who ‘has it all’ try to work out what he really needs. Freddie believes “being human is a condition that requires a little anaesthesia,” seeking solution in parties and people, but knowing it’s not enough.
In our own world of ‘middle-moments’ packed with social media distractions, entertainment, and anything that fills the silence, Freddie’s realisation is worth pondering. What are our distractions covering over? And are we also brave enough to ask if they really satisfy?
Bohemian Rhapsody is well acted and has a killer (queen) soundtrack, but Mary Austin’s words to a despondent Freddie are the biggest take-away: “You are loved, and that’s enough.” Let’s think about that in the middle.
Bohemian Rhapsody is rated M and in cinemas November 1.
High Point: When Freddie finds his aviators (and the soundtrack of course).
Low Point: Seeing Freddie get lost in his lifestyle.
Best digested with: A spicy American Hot Dog.
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