If you’d asked me even a week ago, I would’ve qualified myself as a casual Queen fan. After all, aren’t we all born Queen fans to some degree? But after seeing this film? Well, let’s just say I went home from the theater listening to Spotify’s “This is Queen” playlist and have listened to nothing else since (except, of course, for individual Queen albums).
Bohemian Rhapsody, in my humble opinion, did everything right. It was heartfelt, funny, and even educational. I tend to think this film is (mostly) historically accurate, as Brian May (lead guitarist of Queen) was an executive producer on the film. Who better to share the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen than someone who lived it?
As far as the acting, everyone was perfectly cast. But it was, naturally, Rami Malek who stole the show. He brought Freddie Mercury back to life for two hours and thirteen minutes. And I think it was hearing Mercury and Queen’s story that really made me truly fall in love with this band. I don’t think any other movie this year has moved or changed me as much as this one has.
It was awesome getting to see how Queen’s most iconic songs came to life (whether artistic license was taken in these scenes or not). Each member of the band was and is a genius in their own right. Put these forces of nature together, and they’re able to create some of the greatest songs of all time. Needless to say, the soundtrack is absolute perfection.
While I don’t know much about filmography, I do know plenty about concerts. And every performance scene in this movie felt like attending a concert— the best of your life. Freddie Mercury was such a showman. It makes the sorrow of being born too late to see them live far deeper than before (with Mercury, is). But mark my words, once time travel is invented I’m going back in time to see Queen live in their prime (though I may break and go see them live with Adam Lambert in present day).
As fantastic as this film is, it isn’t without its controversy. One common criticism is that Freddie Mercury was Farsi, but Malek is Egyptian. The implication here is that all people of color are interchangeable. And, as amazing a job as Malek did in portraying Mercury, this is a legitimate criticism.
On the other hand, white people play white people from other cultures and no one cares. After all, Europe is filled with many rich and unique backgrounds. Not every white person can claim all those backgrounds, and yet we play each other interchangeably all the time. Perhaps it matters less because white people as a whole still dominate the film industry. But are we going to sit here and pretend it isn’t baffling and infuriating when white people speak with a British accent in every historical film, no matter what country it takes place in (i.e. This is France. Why do you sound like you just walked out of a tea shop in London?)?
But please don’t misunderstand and think I’m making light of a perfectly valid criticism. Really all I’m trying to say is that I get the thinking behind casting Rami Malek. Does that make it okay? I don’t know and don’t really feel that’s for me to decide. I just think it’s something to consider.
The other major criticism of the film specifically is the alleged biphobia. As far as this claim goes, I don’t think it actually holds much weight. The only scene in which it comes up explicitly is when Freddie tells Mary he believes he’s bisexual. Mary tells him he’s gay, which he does not refute. This, on its own, I could see a claim of biphobia for. But that’s not all that happens in the scene.
Essentially, Freddie has been very distant lately, focusing more on his music and touring than his marriage. Meanwhile, he also begins to realize a strange attraction to men. But he also loves Mary. So their discussion and following divorce is more about what Freddie ultimately wants from Mary, and not about his sexuality. After all, it is Mary that decides to end the marriage. Therefore, it can be assumed it’s about more than discovering her husband is gay (even if this is incorrect, as real-life Freddie Mercury never used a label for his sexuality).
After they break up, Freddie is only shown exploring his feelings for men for the rest of the film. Perhaps this could be viewed as biphobia, but again I don’t think there’s enough evidence to substantiate it. This is the first time Freddie is able to explore these feelings. I think it makes sense that he focuses on them for a period. We also have to take Paul’s influence into account. We know he manipulates Freddie and we see him take Freddie to gay clubs. That’s going to limit his access to women, just saying.
Speaking of Paul, the only other scene that addresses this issue semi-explicitly is when Freddie plays Paul “Love of My Life,” the song he wrote for his then-wife Mary? Paul expresses doubt that Freddie really feels that way for Mary and kisses him. While Freddie doesn’t deny feeling attracted to men, he does explain that he and Mary have something special and understand each other on a deeper level. In doing so, he also firmly tells Paul to back off. Again, this fully implies that Freddie likes men and women. It also rejects that “bisexuals are cheaters” stereotype. Paul’s biphobia doesn’t make the movie as a whole biphobic.
Additionally, when the media talks about and asks Freddie about his “lovers,” they never specify a gender. Hell, even Paul tells the media Freddie has “countless lovers” (though his claims are dubious at best). Yes, the media asks about his sexuality and some papers focus on the men. But nowhere does that suggest he doesn’t experience multiple-gender attraction. On the contrary, I think the film does a good job in emphasizing that the two great loves of his life were Mary and Jim. I won’t tell you how to feel about this (especially since I’m not bisexual), but I do find it to be a non-issue.
And then there are the allegations of sexual assault against the director, Bryan Singer. If anything gave me pause about supporting this movie, it was that. Yes, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But the claims against him are alarming (at best) and involve underage boys. I won’t go too into detail as the subject matter can be triggering, but please read this 2014 interview with one of Singer’s accuser’s, Michael Egan.
However, it should also be noted that a year later, Egan pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to attempt securities and wire fraud (though for a separate incident, it does lead some credence to the claim that he could’ve been fishing for money from Singer). That same year, his lawsuit against Singer fell apart. Egan’s lawyers settled with the two other movie industry figures he had accused.
Regarding Singer, Egan’s lawyers issued him an apology on Egan’s behalf, stating that his claims against Singer were untrue. Another sexual assault lawsuit filed by an anonymous plaintiff against Singer in 2014 was also dropped.
The only case left open is that of Caesar Sanchez-Guzman. Does that mean the claims were false? Not necessarily. There could be any number of reason why two of the lawsuits against Singer fell apart or why Egan recanted his statement. But it does make the accusations, especially Egan’s, murkier.
Either way, Bryan Singer was fired as the director of Bohemian Rhapsody two weeks before production for the film wrapped. The reasons cited were “unprofessional behavior” and repeated failure to show up on set. He was replaced with Dexter Fletcher, but was still given credit for directing the film.
Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not you want to support this movie. After all, it’s not just Singer who is impacted either way. Thousands of people worked on that film. Is it fair to screw them over because the director has been accused of sexual assault? I can’t answer that question. I know I went to see the film and I have to grapple with all of this. How you interpret and handle all this information is up to you.
Back to the film itself, I still maintain this is a fantastic movie. The theater I was in agreed, almost everyone breaking out into applause at the end (which is cringy, but also touching). Everything from the acting to the music and beyond worked for me. I also believe this movie is worth seeing, however you choose to do so. I laughed, I cried, I was inspired. I felt seen. It’s as Freddie Mercury says in the film, Queen is a band of misfits for misfits. And for two hours, this misfit felt like maybe she wasn’t so alone. Hey, maybe that was the meaning of“Bohemian Rhapsody” all along. Whatever the takeaway, this movie will ignite a passion in fans new and old. A killer queen, indeed.