Little High, Little Low: ‘Bohemian’ Rhapsody is a good biography, but only an okay story

Freddie Mercury, the siren of the 70s and 80s, lead singer of Queen, took the big screen 27 years after his death in the recently released biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The film, named after one of the most fantastic songs of all time (no arguments please) and Queen’s most characteristic hit, successfully gave a glimpse into the fabulous and fickle life of Mercury, or as he was born, Farrokh Bulsara. While the movie provided a variety of interesting scenes showing the creation of songs and events of Mercury’s life, it failed to present a certain level of intensity in Mercury’s inner struggles or outward success.

The film opens with a depiction of Mercury in his home getting ready, being hassled by his parents about his desire to leave the life they’ve given him. From the get-go, the audience gets a clear image of Mercury’s huge personality. He walks with swagger, dresses with pizzazz, and speaks as though he has the wisdom of a grandmother and the heart of a teenage boy around teeth you can’t help staring at. This came across beautifully from the first scene. This makes for a great biopic, but doesn’t tell us much about how Bulsara became this person that needed a name like Mercury.

Rami Malek played the role beautifully, committing to the pure exaggeration, self-aggrandizement and overwhelming, hiccupy emotion that characterized Mercury. I wonder how much further the film could have gone if this had been played up more and Mercury was humanized further.

That’s where part of the problem comes in: The stage persona of Mercury is a rockstar of royal dimensions, but in order to show him as a true human, the film needed to go deeper into the demons eating at him.

While the movie depicted Mercury’s conflict with drugs, loneliness, AIDs and love, it was always through the frame of circumstance. It was always the fault of evil manager Paul Prenter, his sexuality, his fame. Freddie was never to blame. The film was missing that moment when everybody in the audience is internally screaming, “Freddie, no!” The one moment which came close was when Mercury left the band, but it was at Prenter’s urging.

Other than room for improvement in story-telling, the movie gave interesting insight into the creation of different songs. “Another One Bites the Dust” emerged from an argument. “We Will Rock You” was played up crowd participation. “Love of My Life” was all about Mary Austin, whose relationship with Mercury ended after he revealed his sexuality. The movie featured a good number of Queen’s most classic anthems and highlighted how underrated the other members of Queen are, living in the powerfully eclipsing shadow of Mercury.

One big thing I felt the movie lacked was a playing of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to bring the film full circle. The film covered the eccentric creation of the song early, as well as the argument over whether or not people would like it. In the final scene, where Mercury emerged from his personal struggles to perform at Live Aid, they play only the beginning of the song. What? I understand the movie wanted to maintain a certain level of accuracy, but “Bohemian Rhapsody” is more than just a song. It’s a story, it’s a journey, it’s eccentric, it’s addicting, it’s just like Freddie Mercury. One run through of the song with all its highs and lows, with all its crescendo, its back-and-forth, its energy would have given the movie some of the punch it just began to hint at.

Overall, the film did a good job telling about Mercury and his life, but didn’t push the boundaries quite as far as Mercury himself would have.

Rating: 3.5/5



Alex Houdeshell is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.houdeshell@uconn.edu.