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Vic’s Flix Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Every so often a music genre biopic comes along that leaves you feeling remorseful when you leave the theater. The feeling isn’t one of disappointment in a poor film, but rather the realization that something amazing happened in the world during your lifetime, and you either missed it completely or were only marginally aware of what many others relished in real time.
For example, perhaps you also drove by the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco as I did during the "Summer of Love" in 1967, blissfully unaware of the cultural significance of the location, and wondering aloud, “Is that a Hippie, Mom?” Yeah, and I could have gone to Woodstock too if I was a couple of years older.
So, I have to consider the era of Queen as portrayed in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody as one of those experiences. I was never much of a Queen fan, but it was hard to miss their stadium rocking, anthem-stomping presence in the 1970s and 80s. My all time favorite Queen song is “39.” I consider it the third song in a space trilogy comprised also of Elton John’s “Rocketman” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (Major Tom.)
I learned a couple of things about Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Bulsara) in this film. First, that he was considered to be Pakistani, “a Paki,” and was raised in England following his early childhood in India. Second, Mercury married Mary Austin when he was only 24. She inspired the song, “Love of My Life” that later became a traditional sing-along by audiences, almost to the exclusion of the band itself.
I was struck by Mercury’s self-confidence. He knew how talented he was (extremely), and quickly became the leader, main vocalist, writer and producer for the band. The falling out with their first manager, if portrayed accurately, was a risky move for a band that was virtually broke despite early successes.
Rami Malek recently won a well-deserved best actor Golden Globe award for his portrayal of the rock icon. How he avoided choking on the mouthful of teeth that the British (jokingly in the movie) and Mercury, in actuality, never had straightened was a challenge in itself. Malek conveyed the complexity and genius of his character through to the climactic Live Aid concert re-creation, which is so close to the original it leaves you wondering if some of it is original footage.
I recall learning about AIDS in the late 1970s as a medical technologist. We received earlier briefings than most of the public due to our daily handling of potentially contaminated blood specimens. An initial soft warning quickly became a dire and unusually rigid protocol within the lab. The disease, of course, entered Bohemian Rhapsody as Mercury’s tragic killer a couple of years after the Live Aid concert. It cut his career short at age 45, and it leaves you wondering what more he was capable of.
Of course, the writing and recording of the title song is prominently featured, in intriguing detail, at length, but not to the point at which interest is lost. The experimental nature of the lyrics and music is revealed layer by layer, and you get the sense that Mercury’s somewhat mystified band mates inevitably go along for an exciting ride, in awe of “Freddie’s thing” as the song came to be known.
This movie is probably not an example of great filmmaking. It has some script weakness at points, and it probably sugar coats the dynamic within the band. But it is certainly worth seeing, even if you’re not a fan, and you may find, upon returning home, that you ask Alexa to play the album A Night at the Opera in its entirety, as I did.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) runs 2 hours, 14 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Should you see this movie?

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