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Arts in Review

More than a song



Bohemian Rhapsody, directed by Bryan Singer, focuses on the origin of English rock band, Queen, though much of the film centres on lead singer Freddie Mercury, who is portrayed by Rami Malek. Beginning before Mercury changed his name, the film tells the story of how he ended up joining Smile, the band which we now know as Queen.

The film goes into details about Mercury’s life including how he legally changed his name, his short-lived engagement to Mary Austin, his coming-out story, and his foray into solo musicianship. However, the film should not entirely be taken as actual truth of Mercury’s life or the band’s history. As most biographical movies go, this one also has its inaccuracies. There are two big changes the movie made to Queen’s story, over which the film received considerable backlash from critics. Before the 1985 release of Mr. Bad Guy, Mercury’s solo debut, drummer Roger Taylor had already released two of his own solo records: one in 1981 and another in 1984. Aside from this, the film distorts the timeline of Mercury’s HIV-positive diagnosis. In the film, Mercury uses the knowledge of his HIV as a way to reaffirm the band’s decision to reunite right before the 1985 Live Aid benefit performance to raise relief funds for the 1983 – 85 Ethiopian famine. The truth of the matter is that there was no diagnosis until 1987, two years after the Live Aid performance had taken place.

The biographical film has been a long time in the making, but has it met all of the hype, and respected the true story of Queen? The movie was by all means entertaining and dramatic, definitely a fan favourite, but it failed to live up to the greatness of Queen and the title song,  Bohemian Rhapsody.” It filled the requirement of having an assortment of Queen songs, but there is certainly a need to acknowledge the inaccuracies included in the film and how they were presented. Another big critique over the film is how Mercury’s sexuality was shown. His sexual promiscuity in the film is formed in such a way that it is assumed to be the reason Mercury had HIV and died.

Within the movie, the first half seems to have some focus on Mercury being heterosexual and dating Mary Austin. However, part way through the film, Paul Prenter, Mercury’s manager, kisses Mercury out of the blue. Mercury’s sexuality is portrayed as something thrust upon him rather than something he discovered himself. Furthermore, the film chooses to overwrite the fact that Mercury wasn’t a homosexual or heterosexual, he was a bisexual. It’s unfortunate that the movie would choose to present such a big part of Mercury’s life in such a way.

At the end of the day, if you are just looking for a film with some good music and want to know a little about the band Queen, this biographical movie is definitely one to check out, though you need to be able to overlook the errors in it. The movie held an exciting plot line despite it not being completely true, but the movie is only based off a true story anyway. Despite the historical inaccuracies, the performance by Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury) was incredible. Of course he didn’t hold the same aura that drew people to Queen like the real Mercury did, but that was what made Mercury so special to begin with.

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