“We need a song teenagers can bang their heads to in a car. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is not that song,” music executive Ray Foster said when rock band Queen wrote the hit single. Now, the song is an intergenerational hit. Fans of the operatic rock song, and of Queen, flocked to the theaters since Nov. 2 to honor the life of legendary lead singer Freddie Mercury.
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” a biopic following Mercury’s rise to stardom, was released to mixed reviews. Critics thought the film glossed over or straight-up changed important factors in Mercury’s life, such as when and how he met his former partner Mary Austin, how and why he broke away from the band and the overarching theme of his struggles with sexuality and drug abuse.
However, while factually it may not be the most accurate of movies, “Bohemian Rhapsody” forwent historical accuracy in favor of a vivid, over-the-top depiction of Mercury. The film, which was in part produced by his former bandmates Brian May and Roger Taylor, painted a striking picture of a larger-than-life Mercury, full of zingy one-liners and creative energy. Mercury (played excellently by Rami Malek) seemed to leap off the screen — one moment he was bullishly standing up to his traditional father, the next he was gliding across the stage in a sparkling jumpsuit. Each and every move Mercury made on screen had a purpose, each scene told its own story and all of those stories shared with the audience the essence of who Mercury was.
Even the decision to skew some facts seemed intentional — it went along with the idea that Mercury was a man of mystery, a caricature of himself, who always had conflicting renditions of what his life was, and who thrived in the possibility of all that he could be. The film carried strong undertones of inclusivity, love and family, and made for just as good a fictional tale as it did a biopic.
Carried even further by an incredible soundtrack, “Bohemian Rhapsody” spanned genres, just as Queen did musically. One moment it was joyful, when the band accepted him and walked with him through his struggles with his sexuality, the next it was heartbreaking, when Mercury left his bandmates to pursue a solo career. Audience members witness his growth as an artist and the band’s rise to fame through its unique and experimental sound.
What makes it so well-formed is that, like the band, the film makes everyone feel like they belong. It welcomes the audience in, makes them feel right at home and showcases how being relatable and odd go hand in hand. You can be the most normal joe-schmoe on the street and find something in this film that seems it was made just for you. Fantastical costuming, brilliant vocals, wailing guitar solos, intimate moments with a loved one — there’s something in it for everyone.
While critics may argue that skimming over or watering down parts of Mercury’s story, such as his battle with AIDS, detracts from the film, what is made clear in this movie is Mercury’s positivity and wonder about life. To focus on the sadness in Mercury’s life, of which he had plenty, would be in poor tasted considering his persistently positive outlook. “Bohemian Rhapsody” showed people that in the face of fame, fortune, loss and even death, a positive outlook and a strong support group can lift you to incredible heights. It offered viewers an inside look into how a legendary band worked, and it allowed an entire generation to experience Queen in a way they never would have before.