For those who rode with me back in the day in my yellow Volkswagen Beetle named Kelso, you likely heard a Bohemian Rhapsody bootleg on an eight-track player. When Kelso was full, we would all sing the opera parts from the song, a decade before Wayne’s World was released. We were cool before we knew it.
Bohemian Rhapsody shows a baggage handler at London Heathrow Airport, Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek), who lives with his conservative Parsi family. One night, he catches his favorite local band, Smile, whose lead singer abruptly quits. Farrokh auditions on the street and his future bandmates Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) recruit him immediately. After forming a new rock band by the name of Queen, Farrokh legally changes his name to Freddy Mercury.
Despite having a flamboyant front man, Queen becomes a strong ensemble band with each player contributing to some of the great songs of album rock radio stations, ie, “Fat Bottomed Girls,” “You’re My Best Friend,” “Another One Bites the Dust” and “We Are the Champions.” Queen tours the world with concerts that demand audience interaction, mostly conducted by Freddy Mercury.
Of course, with any rock artist biopic, we witness the self destruction of success. To director Bryan Singer’s credit, he does not dwell on this dark side of Freddy Mercury. (It should be noted that Brian May and Roger Taylor were involved in this production). Bohemian Rhapsody opens and closes with Freddy Mercury’s redemptive moment, the “Live Aid Concert” on July 13, 1985 at the Wembley Arena in London.
The “Live Aid Concert” was a golden moment for this columnist finishing up his course work at Florida State University. Broadcast poorly on MTV, so much of the concert was lost in hype, though Queen’s performance was highly praised.
Bohemian Rhapsody is worth the price of admission for recreating this golden performance with four actors and special effects. That said, unlike the self indulgence of the “Woodstock Generation,” “The Live Aid” generation used music to prevent starvation in Ethiopia in the mid 80s. Thanks Bohemian Rhapsody for reminding this columnist about this charitable time during the Reagan-Bush administrations.