Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody ★½

When rock critics hear Queen’s improbable hit single “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the first time, Bryan Singer’s film (of the same name) flashes a bunch of dismissive critical quotes. One quote outstretches all the others and ends the sequence, that’s “perfectly adequate” and it perfectly describes the adequate rock biopic of aha musical moments, backstage drama, and 15-year reflections from backstage framing. But the problem is that where it isn't perfectly adequate and vanilla it's actually painfully safe and somewhat erasing, in regards to Mercury's legacy and his sexuality. Particularly how the movie keeps the heterosexuals with marriages and children as the safe space for Freddie Mercury to return to and apologize to after his hedonist lifestyle is implied but never shown and thus this nefarious cavern of sin that he emerges from asking THEM for forgiveness.

It's certainly rich to have Singer, embroiled in his own sex scandal, writing off an individual as a mere blackmailer and back stabber, painting his run to the media as an untruth and villainous and a betrayal. And it's the same man who introduced Mercury to his open sexuality who is shown as villainous by denying all the straights contact with him; the gay bubble is shown to be Mercury's downfall and his success is collaborating with straight people and for straight audiences; Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie, is more concerned with protecting (and elongating) the karaoke and stadium playing legacy of Queen than it is interested in getting into Mercury's masking of his Parsi background and his sexuality in favor of lots of stadium performances and shoutouts to US cities you might live in!

It's maddening how hetero-normative this movie is, regardless of whom Mercury ends up with, it's the straight family values that guide his final chapter. It even turns the woman he did truly love (Lucy Boynton) from a woman who acted in blue movies into a woman who sells fur coats. Every step in this biopic is a revision for PG-13 audiences. And in documenting a performer who's so sexual on stage (and this is where Malek truly shines, with every hip thrust, curled lip, mic stand protrusion) the sanitization of a truly remarkable subject is extremely frustrating and false. Worse is how reducing Mercury's gay circle is deemed the way to recovery and self love. It's written on all the bandmates faces when they disapprove of his first extravagantly gay party and they say it's not for them and they need to leave, taking their wives with them, only to have Mercury crawling back begging for forgiveness for his behavior of not living a lifestyle that included their values.

This has the surviving members of Queen's fast food fingers all over it. It's funny because the band describes Americans as being puritans in public and perverts in private but this movie is whittled down to extremely puritan by the band's very desire. Mercury and Malek (who is really great) deserved so much better than fans of The Greatest Showman, who can't accept multiple gender pronouns, feeling good when they hear Queen the next time they're shoving a two-foot long macaroni hotdog in their mouth while a stadium blasts "We Will Rock You."

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