Let him entertain you: The life of Freddie Mercury
The name Farrokh Bulsara does not perk up any ears, but Freddie Mercury? That one does. Bulsara changed his name to Freddie Mercury at the start of his musical career, giving an energy to his name – a little extra something that reflects the spark of the man himself. Rami Malek brings this spark to life wonderfully to the big screen in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” which premiered Nov. 2, is the long-awaited biopic of Mercury (played by Malek), lead singer of one of the most famous bands of all time, Queen. The biopic is a wide-eyed and glorious look into the singer’s extraordinary life.
The movie takes the viewer through Queen’s initial formation and rise to fame – all the way through the Live Aid benefit concert in 1985, studded with almost every one of the band’s hits.
One of the most anxiously awaited parts of the film was the question of how it would deal with Mercury’s sexuality and AIDS diagnosis. Early trailers led to accusations on Twitter of straight-washing Mercury (portraying him as a heterosexual man and ignoring his bisexual identity), but the film itself did better justice.
It was not perfect, though. In one scene, backed by the song “Love of my Life,” Mercury attempts to come out to his wife, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) as bisexual, but she insists that Mercury is not bisexual but is actually gay. The word “bisexual” is never mentioned again, though that is likely how he would have defined himself if he ever talked about it publicly.
Austin and Mercury’s relationship is the only deeply explored, loving relationship in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” In the movie, his only explored relationship with a man was with Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), the villain of the story. Their relationship was toxic and ultimately detrimental to Mercury’s health, not to mention the major impact it had on Mercury’s career and relationship with the rest of Queen.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” shows the beginning of Mercury’s final relationship with Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker), but it is not addressed or explored as deeply as Mercury’s attachment to Austin.
While the film could have certainly done better with portraying Mercury’s sexuality, it is worth noting that Mercury himself never wanted that to be the focus. He refused to discuss his sexuality to the media during his lifetime, and even his bandmates knew little about it.
Possibly the only person who could have given a more in-depth account of Mercury’s personal life was Hutton, his partner at the end of his life, who passed away in 2010.
Even if the makers of “Bohemian Rhapsody” wanted to do better justice to Mercury’s personal life, the problem remains that there were very few people available to point them in the right direction. “Bohemian Rhapsody” refuses to be an AIDS movie, just as Mercury refused to be an AIDS poster boy. It is a celebration of his life and work, not about his death.
The Live Aid concert is, without a doubt, the climax of the film. While the film cut out songs “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “We Will Rock You,” which had already appeared in the movie, it kept “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Radio Ga Ga,” “Hammer to Fall” and “We Are The Champions.” The concert, which in the movie took place just after Mercury officially receives his AIDS diagnosis, is as empowering as it is heartbreaking. There is a palpable sense that Mercury knows that this is one of the last truly important things he will do in his life, and he appears to be truly taking in and appreciating every second of it. At the same time, the worldwide audience has so much love and engagement with Queen, showing just how impactful they have been. Crowds in a bar raise their hands and clap along with “Radio Ga Ga” just as enthusiastically as the 72,000 people in Wembley Stadium as calls flood into the Live Aid call center.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” set out to do justice to the legend of Freddie Mercury and it does just that. Audiences can stomp-stomp-clap their way through the music of one of the most iconic bands of all time, not to mention coo over Mercury’s near-countless cats, who make several appearances in the movie. Most of all, audiences can expect to leave the theater teary-eyed, but with the overwhelming feeling of having been part of something truly spectacular, just as Queen intended.