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Monday, May 25, 2020

Bohemian Rhapsody: The story of Queen

Illustrations by Shannon DeLurio

By Chris Butcher

After 10 years in the making, the story of Queen finally arrived on the big screen. This movie, which seemed destined to fail as a consequence of the self-destructive director, Bryan Singer and his inappropriate behavior, was in the end saved by its lead actor who unequivocally steals the show.

The movie production began under Singer’s direction and starring Sacha Baron Cohen but concluded under the supervision of lead producer Dexter Fletcher. Fletcher took over Singer’s responsibilities to work with “Mr. Robot” actor Rami Malek transforming him into Queen’s frontman and queer-rock superstar, Freddie Mercury.

Guitarist, Brian May, and drummer, Roger Taylor, were on set during the filming process to share memories and provide insight for the actors to develop their characters.

Roger and May also made sure that the movie’s soundtrack and live performances lived up to Queen’s anthemic epics, which are to this day, played to the backdrop of hard rockers, fans of classical theatrics and often at local sporting events.

The narrative follows four misfits, May, Taylor, bassist John Deacon and Mercury, who met at a British night club in 1970 and soon embraced their vision to be one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

The movie rapidly touches on the band’s origins starting with their time attending college and working menial jobs to their touring throughout the UK and playing BBC’s “Top of the Pops.”

While the first half of the film is a little rushed, spending gratuitous time attempting to make dramatic scenes that ultimately come across as bland, it is when the timeline jumps to 1974 and Queen goes to work on their fourth album “A Night at the Opera” that the movie really pulls you in.

With an in depth look at their recording techniques and desire to take musical experimentation to new heights, the film exposes multiple occasions where the band experienced both moments of celebration and fighting.

It was at this point in their journey that Queen completed their masterpiece and inspiration for the movie’s title. The lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody” are a confession of Mercury’s struggle with defining his sexuality and the feeling of being rejected by the world around him.

The six-minute operatic rock song became a massive radio phenomenon despite doubt from their label’s CEO for it not using the standard commercial formula for a hit single. The portrayal of this event includes a humorous Mike Myers cameo that references his legendary SNL character from Wayne’s World.

With Mercury’s obsessive perfectionism and the band’s ability to push each other to their  musical limits, Queen created the album that catapulted them to global recognition and success.

It is at that point that the film illustrates the weakening of bonds and trust among the band. From creative differences and clashing egos, their internal issues are amplified by music industry influencers taking advantage of Mercury’s drug and sexual addictions.

Despite the building tension, Queen continued to deliver several more hits throughout the 1970s including “We Will Rock You,” “Somebody to Love” and the ferocious live recording “Live Killers.”

After two Mercury solo albums in the mid-80s, Queen reunited to perform at the legendary 1985 Live Aid festival. It is the most watched televised concert in history with 1.9 billion viewers. The movie features an uninterrupted reenactment of the band’s complete set; a cinematic spectacle shot at an angle that inserts you right into the live concert crowd.

The movie ends with a somber reminder that our musical heroes are not immune from life’s misfortunes, including the carnage of the 20th century AIDS crisis. Mercury died in 1991 after making peace with his bandmates, family and the loves of his life.

The rock ‘n’ roll biopic has already taken home two Golden Globe awards for Best Actor and Best Dramatic Motion picture, and has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The 2019 Oscar awards won by Bohemian Rhapsody include: Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Film Editing and Best Actor went to Malek.

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