Anyone who knows me even slightly well will know that Queen is my all-time favorite band. I personally believe they’re the greatest band of all time (fight me). The vocals of Freddie Mercury are iconic, the guitar solos by astrophysicist guitarist Brian May are brilliant, and some of the most recognizable songs in their repertoire were written by bassist John Deacon or drummer Roger Taylor. The lyrics can be both heartwrenching and whimsical and the instrumentation follows suit, and the over-the-top antics just sear them in the memory.
So yeah, I love Queen.
You can imagine my delight, then, when I heard they were coming out with a biopic about these gods of rock. I knew I would be purchasing tickets and making it to the theater come hell or high water. And after waiting two weeks from opening day due to scheduling conflicts (pure torture), I finally was able to see the movie. I was not disappointed (may be spoilers ahead, though I’ll try to keep it vague).
The story is already a whirlwind, made all the wilder with the Hollywood timeline. We meet Farouk Bulsara from Zanzibar as a young adult getting into the music scene, then meeting May and Taylor. Suddenly he’s on stage performing with them, and his vision starts to take shape. Two of the most recognizable aspects of Freddie Mercury are front and center early– his teeth, and his voice.
We also see his tender and intimate side, a foil to his stage presence, in moments with Mary Austin, the love of his life, and later with Jim Hutton, his eventual partner, as well as with his family and the band throughout. It’s humanizing, and yes it made me cry at times. It also doesn’t shy away from the darker parts of the star’s life– his struggles with sexuality, substance abuse, and of course, AIDS (some claim it didn’t go deep enough into this stage of his life; I don’t think it was that kind of movie).
But the best part, in my opinion, is the reenactment of their most legendary performances– particularly the one at Wembley Stadium for Live Aid. Watching thousands of people come alive as Freddie interacts with them as very few other musicians do, watching all of the hands clapping along with “Radio Ga Ga”… It gave me chills when I watched recorded footage from the actual concert, but there’s something even more magical about the way they put it together for the movie.
If you’re a Queen fan of any caliber, or a music fan, or a history or biography fan, I highly recommend seeing this movie. It’s funny, it’s energizing, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s all around a beautiful tribute to the band and their sensational front man. There’s no title more fitting than Bohemian Rhapsody for such a bright and tumultuous life, and you won’t be able to resist singing along.