“Fearless lives forever.”
Not a bad tagline for a movie about the twentieth century’s most iconic artist and most riveting performer, who tragically died of AIDS at the age of forty-five. I am referring, of course, to Freddie Mercury.
It’s hard to put into words what Freddie Mercury and his band, Queen, mean to me. I have listened to Queen for hours upon hours . . . writing papers, writing novels, driving on the interstate, staging sing-alongs with my brothers and sisters, just plain jamming out. I’ll clap along to “Another One Bites the Dust,” roll my eyes lovingly (lovingly, I swear!) at “Fat Bottomed Girls,” all but scream the chorus to “Hammer to Fall,” and grin like an idiot whenever I hear the opening beats of “Under Pressure.” Queen puts a smile on my face the way no other musical group can. So when I stepped into a movie theater in Jersey City two weeks ago to see Bohemian Rhapsody (after ten hours of driving–long story), I had already made up my mind. If they spoiled Freddie’s legacy, I was never going to forgive them.
They didn’t spoil it.
Instead, it shines brighter than ever.
Bohemian Rhapsody created an electrifying, immersive experience that had me 100% convinced Freddie Mercury–the real Freddie Mercury–had come back to life to strut and sing, to scream and laugh and cry, for MY benefit and my benefit alone. I have no idea how Rami Malek managed to embody such an outsize, unique figure so completely . . . but he did it. He was brilliant. And I salute him.
In all seriousness, Rami Malek is the goods. I dare you to watch this movie and tell me you can imagine a better Freddie. Every single movement, every word, every glance, is perfect. Magnetic stage presence? Check. One-of-a-kind voice? Check. Extravagant gestures and more extravagant speech in public? Check. Shyness and shrinking vulnerability in private? Check. Unwavering faith in his own vision as an artist, no matter the obstacles? Check.
I will say, I totally did not expect this film to be so freakin’ sad. In so many scenes, Freddie was . . . like . . . a lost little puppy left out in the rain, or something. [LITERALLY left out in the rain, in one particular Scene Which Shall Not Be Named.] He has these big glowing eyes and frail shaking shoulders and meanwhile, I’m over here like CURSE YOU, RAMI MALEK, YOU MADE ME FEEL FEELINGS. Now I have to give you a hug. Curse you.
And the scene where he tells the band he has AIDS? Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh. Here come the waterworks. Also, jsyk, I’m setting up a GoFundMe to sponsor unlimited hugs for John Deacon. The man needs them. 😦 😦
Perhaps the best aspect of the movie was the seamless integration of Queen’s songs with the storyline: they hit so many of my favorites (including “Under Pressure”! yay!), and not one of them felt out of place, whether shown in concert or used as background music. The scene where they were working on the studio recording of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was gold. “Galileo! Galileo! GALILEOOOOOOOOOOOO!” “How many ‘Galileos’ do we need, anyway?!?” *chuckles evilly*
Throughout the film, the writers’ attention to home-y little details astounded me. Like how Freddie’s beloved cats kept showing up in scene after scene, and he would talk and joke with them the way any cat lover would. Or how, during different performances and recording sessions, the camera would pan over to the band’s lawyer, Jim Beach, and he would be quietly standing there, lip syncing to the music, because even lawyers can sing along to Queen. Anyone can sing along to Queen. ❤
The ultimate highlight? The Live Aid concert, of course.
Yes, you heard me right, fellow Queen fanatics. THEY REPRODUCED THE LIVE AID PERFORMANCE.
In case you don’t know, Live Aid was a historic concert in July 1985 at Wembley Stadium in London. It was a benefit performance, raising money for famine relief in Africa. The stadium audience was 70,000; the live television audience, two billion. Two billion people in sixty countries. Live Aid was a landmark in musical history. And Freddie Mercury, everyone agreed, stole the show that day.
I had heard before going into it that Live Aid was the finale of Bohemian Rhapsody. I was pretty skeptical, to be honest. How could they possibly re-create an event so epic, so iconic, without it feeling like a cheap knockoff?
I needn’t have worried. By the end of Rami Malek’s version of the Live Aid performance, my heart was pounding so hard I could barely breathe. I kid you not. I was BLOWN AWAY. It was . . . astounding. Absolute genius.
Go watch the movie, kiddos. You won’t be disappointed, I can tell you that.
And don’t forget–
“Fearless lives forever.”