The main advert circulating prior to the release of Bohemian Rhapsody teased that ‘The only thing more extraordinary than their music is his story’.
The film offers the modern world that grew up without Freddie Mercury and Queen, a chance to see just how impressive the singer was and how much richer the world of music was for their artistry to be captured time after time throughout two decades.
The film opens with Freddie about to go on stage at the iconic Live Aid concert in 1985. The small glimpse of the audience we see from behind the curtains, instantly signifies how important this concert was for raising funds for the famine in Ethiopia and also how memorable this concert would become.
We see Freddie’s realisation that he wants to be a part of a band is introduced he’s loading and unloading luggage and then again when he sees the band Smile live. He later he tells Brian May and Roger Taylor, he’ll ‘think about your offer’ after hearing their lead singer has quit.
In his first performance with Smile, now named Queen, we see Freddie’s magnetism within seconds of her watching him on stage. Mary Austin tells him, ‘I love the way you move on stage, the whole room belongs to you.’
The pace at which their career takes off at times feels rushed as Freddie is keen to sell their van in order to raise enough money to make an album. It is in these recording sessions when Bohemian Rhapsody is born, as Brian wants to be ‘experimental’. While Roger becomes frustrated with having to repeatedly rerecord singing ‘Galileo’, the band are seen to be proud of their now finished album, A Night At The Opera, even the quiet John ‘Deacy’ Deacon.
EMI executive Ray Foster tells them ‘no one will play Bohemian Rhapsody on the radio’ and their manager Jim ‘Miami’ Beach retorts with ‘Fortune favours the bold’. DJ Kenny Everett played the single on his radio show, giving them the . The conversation defines the conflicting moods of rock fans and music industry executives – one once told Queen, ‘We don’t want another Led Zeppelin!’
The rise of Queen’s popularity within the world of rock music is at times overshadowed by Freddie’s sexuality. The first time the audience is aware of this is during the recordings of Bohemian Rhapsody as Paul Prenter makes a move on Freddie while writing Mary’s song, Love of My Life, Freddie brushes him off, telling him ‘you don’t know what I need’.
Queen’s success continues but it’s apparent that the band are growing apart, especially during recording sessions when Paul is present, as he is referred to as Freddie’s ‘pet’. His sexuality causes conflict at the press release of the album Hot Space, it also ends his relationship with Mary. Freddie’s relationship with the band sours further when he reveals he’s been offered four million dollars to make a solo album.
However, thankfully Mary is able to bring Freddie back to the band by telling him about Live Aid, something Paul failed to do, despite being his personal manager. Freddie fires him and returns to the band and apologises, begging them to accept Live Aid. Freddie then repairs his relationship with his parents and sister, with his ‘friend’ Jim Hutton close by.
The triumphant revival of Queen is short lived for the audience when Freddie reveals he has aids, the love the band share for one another has returned when Roger tells him he’s a ‘legend’ and Freddie remarks that they all are. This scene marks the beginning of the end of Freddie’s life, reminding the audience how awful it was that his life was cut short by the disease.
Live Aid assures the audience that Queen are back together. The iconic songs; Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer to Fall and We Are the Champions, gives the audience the chance to either relive watching Live Aid or to see the magnitude of the event for the first time.
The film’s focus was Freddie’s life since joining Smile and as a side-line the rise and fall of Queen, which was conveyed well with emotive, explosive and heart-wrenching scenes, especially when Freddie tells Mary he’s bisexual and she tells him he’s gay and it’s not his fault.
Yet the film has its pitfalls mainly the inaccuracies. Including the fact Paul wasn’t fired until about a year after Live Aid and he sold his story to The Sun and didn’t give a TV interview. And Freddie and Mary couldn’t see each other from their windows when they lived in close proximity. Though these inaccuracies are serious issues for some, I believe that they exist to explain the emotion and impact that these experiences had on Freddie and Queen.
There were several incredible moments in the film, largely Live Aid, which was shot beautifully. Even though this was the first scene they shot, it’s clear that everyone involved was committed to portraying the concert, Freddie’s life and Queen with as much heart as possible, which for me, they definitely achieved.