Review of Bohemian Rhapsody by Stephanie Mardesich
Stephanie Mardesich, founded the LA Harbor International Film Festival (LAHIFF) in 2003. She is the director/programmer for LAHIFF and also freelance journalist and public relations consultant. She is descendant of European immigrants to America in the early 19th century.
She has lived and worked in the UK and travels there frequently.
She recently co-produced a new oral history project ‘Stories Of Los Angeles Harbor Area: For Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow’. Segments can be viewed on Youtube and Facebook every ‘Throwback Thursday’.
See https://www.laharborfilmfest.com for more information and below for Stephanie’s review of Bohemian Rhapsody viewed during the BFI London Film Festival 2018.
Attending 62nd annual BFI London Film Festival for eight of the 12 day days (for me Oct. 12-19; more forthcoming write ups) viewing 20 films was like the starter and main course, with the ‘pudding’ (dessert) BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (BR) (opened in UK Oct. 23 and Nov. 2 in USA), story of the meteoric rise of beloved band Queen whose innovative choices ‘rocked’ the music scene with their inspired style, that still resonates with musical power.
It was Wednesday matinee day so I ventured to a play in the West End starring two significant actors, however mediocre experience not worth writing about. Nearby in Leicester Square Cinema BR was playing, premier was evening prior at Wembley Stadium (with 8K audience), so I went where my feet took me (a la Zorba the Greek) to the 4:30 pm screening on the IMAX screen. That’s the best way to view this BIG movie about the rise of the band and especially the story of the lead singer. the extraordinary Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek).
Not being a pop music fan per se, yet not entirely ignorant, I was aware of the band, however never paid much attention. Thus I was duly ‘unprepared audience’, which means fresh if not naive, and became completely caught up in the kinetic mood and rapture from the opening exposition when young Freddie nee ‘Farrokh Bulsara’ aspiring artist/musician was working as a baggage handler at Heathrow airport by day and checking out bands and clubs by night, against the ‘wisdom’ of his conservative government employee father who espoused, ‘good thoughts, good words, good deeds’. Freddie’s personality is strong and driven. A moderate rebel at the threshold of ‘Swinging London’ bound to fulfil his manifest destiny and become a legend in his own time. Malek is authentic not imitative – he was born to play this role – as he becomes the ‘force of nature’ Freddie Mercury, a sort of messenger of the Gods of music, in a brilliant tour de force performance.
The film is hardly a documentary, yet sometimes has that tone as if being part of the evolution of the band coming into its own, their unique brilliance evolving as revealed through adroit direction of Bryan Singer, and Anthony McCarten’s superior script (story by McCarten and Peter Morgan) and inspired editing and production design. The inspired collaboration of band members Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor), Joe Mazello (John Deacon) – exceptionally talented musicians with great intellect – independent, yet close, is a didactic revelation. The cast perfectly matched to the real members of the band, as is entire litany of characters from friends to foes.
Chronology and plot points, accurate or embellished are part of dramatic license that can be acceptable when presented so skilfully. The creation of the audacious enigmatic six minute ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ disdained by some simply for its length, is fascinating and comical and became a phenomena. Though ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are the Champions,’ are Queen’s hallmark tunes that continue to enthral with the songs evoking passion and pathos.
Freddie’s contagious personality, his love and respect for family, though he diverted on his own path, demonstrates his independence and humanity. His relationship with lovely Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), who he regarded as if his wife, even as he discovers his dominant sexuality, is poignant and enduring, clearly fundamental in his adult life and how he demonstrated his devotion providing for her upon his death.
Queen’s musical composition and captivating lyrics resonate with clarity, not bashing and screeching like some rock sounds and genius of Freddie and the band. It’s amazing to feel part of the glory and witness the disruption and egoism of Freddie surrounded by sycophants, that leads to a ‘break’, then his epiphany and apology that reunites them for the famed Live Aid concert in Wembley (1985). One feels actually being part of the revelry, swept up in the excitement as Freddie engages the crowd with zeal and flamboyance mesmerizing and engaging, effectively making the audience his.
See the movie and sing along, laugh along, weep along in very emotional moments, feel the excitement and fervour of the music and in particular the story of how a man fulfils imminent greatness, revels in it, succumbs to the decadence, appreciates and finds humility; and the band goes on, though without the ‘force of nature’ will never the same. The culmination at Wembley proves that. The film plays to fans of all ages through the decades, and introduces Queen (as in regal) to a contemporary generation as the legacy continues.
If rock can be ‘classic’ then the songs that are the soul of Queen qualify and will go on for eternity, thrilling and exhilarating. I laughed out loud and was moved to tears.
Be a Champion ‘darling’, and enjoy the show!
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