I was thrilled when I got my SAG screener of Bohemian Rhapsody. I’d always loved Queen when I was a kid, the big anthem songs – We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, Killer Queen, Somebody to Love, even Crazy Little Thing Called Love . . . and all that Jazz. I have to admit having grown up pretty sheltered, I didn’t really know much more about the band other than some of their hits. I’d heard that Freddie was a bit wild, but what rock star wasn’t? So when hubby and I sat down with pop corn in hand the other night to watch the film I found myself transported. It was the discovery of a great mystery that for some reason I had never thought to explore. (I’ll blame that shelteredness.)
Generally I don’t care for biopics. They always throw in about 30+ mins of verisimilitude that bogs down the story. I’m not sure if they are too close to the garden to weed, but biopics usually just get so rambly. This one did not. The script was tight, the acting was amazing, the direction was true, and the production values were sublimely supportive. I honestly forgot I was watching a movie. Perhaps this is because I didn’t know anything about Queen, except that their music rocked and Freddie was freaky – in a cool way.
Did not know about the girlfriend. Had heard he was gay. Had heard he died of AIDS. Didn’t know anything about the rest of the band. Didn’t know he was a genius, had buck teeth, or was Indian, for heaven’s sake. Or that he wasn’t born Freddie Mercury. And I loved discovering all of it. It made their music mean so much more, shining a bright light on what I had no idea was a complete treasure trove of brilliance.
Speaking of brilliance, what I loved most about the film was the capturing of Mr. Mercury’s genius. The role was played boldly, yet with nuance by Rami Malek, a Los Angeles based actor of Coptic Egyptian descent. Mr. Malek embodied the lead singer of Queen from coiffed scalp to painted nails through his movement, his voice, his intention, capturing the sheer magnetism of probably the most magnetic icon of rock that the world has ever seen. No small feat. Through his fantastic portrayal, I clearly saw Mr. Mercury’s genius. And it fed my soul. And that is what a good actor does, transports us and feeds our souls, moves us and makes us forget everything but the truth we see unfolding before our eyes.
HOW did he do it, that wonderful Mr. Malek? How did he transport us with his transformation? If you watch the video below you’ll get a bit of a glimpse into his process. But I think the reason this show went from getting mediocre reviews from the critics to winning the hearts of Queen fans and making a flock of new Queen fans world wide, and winning Mr. Malek Best Actor statues from all the awards so far this season (I have to say I am smelling Oscar gold . . .) are two things: A brilliant, spot on performance of a beloved, larger than life personality whose story was glorious and tragic all at the same time.
Freddie Mercury was an individual who had learned how to truly be himself, celebrate it and use it to uplift and ignite the genius of others. Watching the film I witnessed the struggle of finding that self, the reluctance to accept certain aspects of it, the battle with demons every artists worth their salt encounters, and ultimately the triumph of embracing all of who he was. Freddie was truly one of a kind and if he had been played by someone who couldn’t nail him like Malek did, the film probably would have been a bit of a flop. But thank goodness for all of us we got the right guy to play the pants off this enigma, genius, pied-piper of a soul whose music will haunt, uplift and inspire us for years and years to come.
That’s A Stupid Question
In conclusion, one of my favorite moments in the film was when the press was interviewing the band after an album release. Freddie was asked something like, “Mr. Mercury, do you ever doubt your talent?”
Freddie spat back, “That’s a stupid question. No. Of course not.”
How many of us artists could say that with such automatic conviction? Well, after watching this movie, hopefully more and more will be able to. In art, as in life, we need role models. People to show us how it’s done. Let Freddie show us the way! And let Rami Malek’s portrayal of him also be a guide. And may the Oscar go to . . .