Bohemian Rhapsody: The Life of Freddie Mercury

Ashley Kim ’19

“We’re four misfits who don’t belong together. We’re playing for other misfits. And the outcasts right in the back of the room, we’re pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them.” answered Freddie Mercury, when John Reid asked them what makes Queen any different from other wannabe rock stars.

The rock band Queen is legendary because they were the first artists who were not afraid of change and experimented with various sounds and recording methods. As a result, many of Queen’s songs are still eminent nowadays, such as Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Another One Bites the Dust, Don’t Stop Me Now, and the song that inspired the movie title, Bohemian Rhapsody.

The movie Bohemian Rhapsody, initially released on November 2nd, 2018 in the US, depicts the first fifteen years of Queen’s career. When I first heard about the movie, I was quite interested in the concept, as I recognized many of their songs yet I didn’t know much about their history as musicians. Looking it up online out of curiosity gave me a brief sense of Freddie Mercury’s life and how Queen attained their reputation. Born Farrokh Bulsara in the British protectorate of Zanzibar on September 5, 1946, Mercury began his music career at age seven when he started taking piano lessons. He lived in Zanzibar for the majority of his childhood, and moved to England with his family at the age of seventeen due to the Zanzibar Revolution. He pursued art in college and later joined a band called Smile. The movie starts around this time of Mercury’s life, when he first met and joined guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor.

American actor Rami Malek took the role of Freddie Mercury in the movie, and his acting definitely brought the movie to life. He has depicted Mercury so accurately, even to the minor gestures and reactions, which many of the movie critics also complimented him for. The false teeth Malek wore to look like Mercury have increased the immersion level of the audience by helping his performance, as Malek explained in the interview with The Wrap: “You see him covering up his lips and his teeth all the time, and I could never quite get the hang of it. But as soon as those teeth went in, it was done. It was little things like that that were very informative for me.”

Although the actors’ performances and the editing delivered the story well, I felt the storyline of Bohemian Rhapsody was rushed towards the end of the movie. The movie successfully illustrated the process of the creations of multiple legendary songs, but it failed to fully convey the complicated relationships Mercury had with others. Despite the fact that Freddie Mercury was a famous queer singer in a time when LGBTQ+ rights were suppressed, the storyline showed Mercury’s emotional changes in his relation with Mary Austin, his first partner, and barely any of those with Jim Hutton, his second partner. The official trailer of Bohemian Rhapsody mainly included scenes of Mercury with Mary Austin, but very few with Jim Hutton. Despite this disappointing aspect of the movie, I also understand that a two-hour time frame isn’t enough to fully describe Freddie Mercury’s complicated life and achievements, as well as Queen’s global impact. Although there are some aspects of Mercury’s identity that the movie could have portrayed better and with more details, I think Bohemian Rhapsody has captured the overall the life of Freddie Mercury and the growth of Queen as a band very well. If you haven’t watched it yet, I’d highly recommend it.