There are many great bands. There are many great singers. But few of them will ever rise to the status of legend. And fewer still will be afforded that title within their own lifetime.
Freddie Mercury is, without question, a musical legend.
An immigrant boy from the suburbs, Freddie, played spectacularly by Rami Malek, was an intensely private man whose personal struggles were hinted at while he was alive but, it was only after his tragic death in 1991 from an AIDS related illness, and in the years since, that some truths have been revealed.
Bohemian Rhapsody follows Queen from their humble beginnings as a pub band in 1970 to their spectacular reunion in 1985 at Live Aid, in front of an estimated television audience of 1.9 billion people.
(To put that number in perspective, this was 40% of the population of the Earth at the time!)
A gifted musician and songwriter with more than a flair for theatrics, Mercury was larger than life and there is no doubt that his outrageous stage antics, along with some of the most memorable pop songs in history, helped propel Queen to the heights of superstardom.
But there was, of course, a price to pay.
Why should I watch it?
Who wouldn’t want to watch a movie about this insanely private, insanely talented, insanely complicated yet insanely fragile human being?
At the height of his stardom, Freddie found himself alone, lonely and often surrounded by those who just wanted to hang out with the lead singer from Queen, to have a story to tell. Or sell, as was sometimes the case. Yes, some people are just revolting.
It was one such nefarious person, a lover and confidante of Freddie’s, who would cause the rift that drove Queen apart and at one point, almost cost Freddie his career.
We also meet the love of Freddie’s life, Mary (Boynton), whose life story is inexorably interwoven with that of Freddie’s. Engaged at one point and the woman who Freddie always referred to as his common-law-wife, Mary was a quiet, unassuming woman who was there from the beginning and remained his devoted and loving friend until his dying day.
Then there are the boys in the band. Guitarist Brian May (Lee), drummer Roger Taylor (Hardy) and bass player John Deacon (Mazzello). All equally responsible for the songs that defined a generation, their relationships with each other were strong at times, tense at others but they always stuck together, a united unit in front of the world.
As Brian states in the movie, they were 4 misfits who found each other, shouldn’t even be together but here they were. And their audience were other misfits who also felt they didn’t quite belong. Queen belonged to them.
This movie is exhilarating, exuberant and heartbreaking. Like the man himself.
The concert scenes are showy and spectacular, but it is the Live Aid appearance (that I stayed up all that weekend to watch, that was a looooooong weekend!) that will give you goose bumps and make you want to jump out of your seat and cheer/sing/dance along.
The movie has given me an insight into a complicated man who, at the core of it all, just wanted to be loved and accepted.
But make no mistake, Freddie Mercury was a strong man who knew himself and refused to be anything other than exactly who he was.
The rest of the world just had to catch up.
4 1/2 stars
Running Time: 134 minutes
Release Date: November 2
Who is in it: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy, Mike Myers, Aidan Gilen, Gwilym Lee, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech, Aaron McCusker