Am I late for that party? Then so be it. I shall join it nonetheless. Simply because there are so many things on my mind and none of them wants to leave me alone. A week ago the whole crew of Bohemian Rhapsody received a Golden Globe for best drama and Rami Malek for portraying Freddy Mercury in the biopic. I’ve been disagreeing with Globes nominations ever since they appeared, but they did make me question all the awards yet again.
Because Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t a good film. Definitely not one to remember Queen or Freddy by. The main reason being… it already bases on our knowledge.
The last couple of years were flooded with gossip about the biography of Freddy Mercury. Every interested party wanted it to be perfect and it was failing because of that. Ever since the complication with Sacha Baron Cohen, the film was facing bigger and bigger pressure. The said argument with Sacha about portraying Freddy in the PG-13 category was loud and fierce. In the end, he lost and the production continued without him. For what it’s worth, I still agree with him. A biopic about Freddie Mercury for a wide audience will never give him justice. Bohemian Rhapsody kind of proved that.
After him and plenty of other choices finally, Rami Malek got the part. Back then he was mostly known for his role in Mr Robot and I was unable to picture him as Freddie. Now I have no objections at all. Makeup and prosthetic can do wonders combined with fine acting. And he played as perfectly as possible. He was shining on the screen all the way and didn’t let anyone take the spotlight. Well, Freddy wouldn’t have either, would he?
There were moments when I couldn’t recall the actual Freddie’s face. I had to remind myself that it is a film, based on a script. Because Rami felt natural. With his jaw changed by the prosthetic teeth, he was impossibly similar. The costumes were proving their importance, too. The group responsible for them took their craft to the highest ground creating all of the iconic dress-ups including the crown and royal cape or the checkered bodysuit.
If a film was about such technicalities, I wouldn’t have any objections. But then the most important cause of filmmaking is to tell a story. And this is where it gets complicated.
The problem started mainly with determining the reason for this film to exist. There’s no clear road the film was taking: Freddy-musician, Freddy-artist or Freddy-rockstar. It was bits and pieces of his life. Not a part of his life, not even a brief glimpse in his career. It felt like a few different films put into one, with completely different paces.
First one was a fast-forward beginning of Queen and Freddy as a visionary. So there’re concerts, studio scenes and all the levels they were reaching step by step. For most of it I thought that if I knew nothing about Queen, I wouldn’t have liked them nor their music. Freddie was pretentious, didn’t care about anyone and tried to be a star. He was a diva stealing the light from the band and while in the studio he became a tyrant who didn’t listen to his own rules. He was a man focused on a vision and who was doing everything, right or wrong, to get there.
After that, there is a slow down because the Queen became important. This was my favourite part. The whole session doing Bohemian Rhapsody (mostly shown in the trailers) and the rest studio scenes were simply the best part of the film. There is also more time given for the rest of the band and the people around them. I love the portrayal of Brian May. It was kind of what I always thought of him. Roger as a rebel drummer and Deaky, a quiet one got some colour, too. They weren’t only the background and this somehow felt like what their life was actually like.
But also it was the part that gave the film what I was mentioning in the beginning: the necessity of knowledge to understand it. Especially the argument over Bohemian Rhapsody was joyful only because we already know that it shall become the hit song. It was like – you have to know Queen for that. And not just the music, not just briefly. I was never a huge fan. I knew their names and music, obviously, but I’ve never delved into Freddie Mercury’s life and who he was. All I cared about was his music, the voice, the incredible piano sequences. Only recently I discovered who Jim Hutton and Mary Austin were. And this was some sort of necessity to know. Especially Jim Hutton appeared in only two bigger scenes and to be honest… He didn’t seem important at the time. He did seem to become that, sure, but it felt very exaggerated at that moment.
I believe this should tell us about Freddy not to picture what we already know. If not, they should have focused on the emotions, which could be a catharsis. The thing Bohemian Rhapsody actually did right was its ending. The powerful, emotional ending that made me shed a tear and wish I could live at the same time. It was preset by all the meetings from the past and finished with the Live Aid concert. The concert was done perfectly as it was back there and that choreography requires a recognition. But also it was actually showing what should matter the most in the film: music. These glorious and powerful tunes Queen is responsible for.
Live Aid was full of small gestures. Small gestures that weren’t meaningless anymore. If they focused on that things, I believe it would have been enough to picture Freddy and who he was behind what the world knows. After all, the rest of Queen was fully committed in that project. I wanted to see Freddy as a person, with his faults and dramas, in the small situations which we don’t know about. Instead, we got a cliche with a talented musician who is got down by his selfish associate, goes through trauma and then rises again.
I think what Bohemian Rhapsody actually brought with itself is simply popularity. More people will know about Freddy, especially adolescent. It is some sort of a tribute, but I do hope it won’t be a base material. Because I’m sure it will be a popular TV material in years to come. And it will shape the image of Freddy Mercury somehow. What we know now can change in only a few years. Now the question is what we want to remember.