A couple of weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to go to an early screening of Bohemian Rhapsody, a new film about the life of Freddie Mercury and the band, Queen. I can honestly say it is one of my favorite movies. I think this movie is extremely powerful for a number of reasons.
Bohemian Rhapsody covers the amazing almost unbelievable moments in Freddie Mercury's life while confronting his issues with drugs, alcohol, and sexuality head-on. I felt almost every emotion watching this movie from sorrow and sympathy to admiration and awe. This movie is a true celebration of Queen and the wonderfully unique music they released.
The movie begins with a scene foreshadowing Queen's Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium but quickly changes to a scene of Freddie working at London Heathrow. After attending a performance at a local university bar, Freddie convinces Brian May and Roger Taylor to let him join their band after the lead singer quits. Despite several years of little success, Queen receives their big break in the music industry and start to book international tours. It only took a short time before Queen was on top of the charts everywhere.
Surprisingly, even with all of the band's success, Freddie was pressured into pursuing a solo career and Queen broke up. While the movie seemed to somewhat romanticize the idea that Freddie was unable to live without his band members, the producers realistically portrayed Freddie's struggle with spiraling depression and substance abuse. While all of these events were playing out, Freddie was questioning his sexuality and his marriage to Mary Austin (the love of his life). It took some time but he accepted his queer identity and he began to gain confidence again. A few months later, he was diagnosed with AIDS. Knowing he wouldn't be alive for very long, Freddie convinced the band to reunite for the Live Aid performance, one of the last times the original four members of the band played together.
Freddie Mercury used his musical talents as a way to confront his personal issues. In other words, music was his therapy. Freddie also had a major stage presence that and is still known as one of the greatest frontman ever for rock and roll band. How his big personality on stage might have related to his inner turmoil has been a noteworthy topic of discussion since his death. There has also been much speculation about what some of his songs were really about. Freddie wrote abstract lyrics that cleverly painted a picture of the song's subject rather than directly explaining it.
For example, some people think "Bohemian Rhapsody" is Freddie's coming-out song, while others are convinced it is a song dedicated to his parents and the Zoroastrian culture he left behind. Regardless, these speculations can never be proven true because Freddie will never be able to share the true meaning. In some way, I think that makes the songs more special because a part of Freddie Mercury's heart is preserved in the lyrics he wrote for Queen. His secrets will be forever kept by his music.
While I learned a lot about Freddie Mercury and Queen that I never knew before, Bohemian Rhapsody also opened my eyes to the issues of mental health, sexual orientation, and addiction. It was heartbreaking to see someone's challenging story portrayed on screen but somehow it was also comforting. It shows that no one is protected from mental health issues or struggles with identity or challenges with drugs and alcohol. These are things that are far more common than most people realize. I was encouraged by the producer's approach to these topics in the movie. While they didn't display these issues in a way that might be triggering, they also did not dumb them down or play it too safe.
Bohemian Rhapsody was a powerful movie about Freddie Mercury and the mark he left on this world. The music industry was changed by Queen's courage to be unique. They made music that pushed boundaries and broke the rules. Interestingly, Freddie also pushed these boundaries in his personal life and went against the social norms at the time. He stood out.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see this movie and to be able to learn so much from it. Bohemian Rhapsody is released on November 2nd, 2018. I highly recommend it for music lovers and non-music lovers alike. It's worth watching.