Scaramouche, 3.5 readers. Scaramouche indeed.
BQB here with a review of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
As a young man, Farrokh Bulsara had a ridiculous, almost supernatural and unwavering level of confidence in himself. Where most of us reach our late teens and early twenties and decide selling out our dreams in exchange for financial stability is the safest way to go, Farrokh, who later changes and embraces his new name, Freddie Mercury, has talent and believes in himself intensely.
All he needs is an opportunity and he finds it in the form of a struggling band. College students Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon are on the rocks and about to call it quits when Freddie confidently sings a few notes in front of them and the rest is history.
Freddie is a showman’s showman and the front man to end all front men. As Queen’s star rises, he engages the audience, gets them involved, makes them feel like he is singing to all of them individually. He goes to war with the music industry establishment, fighting the good fight to convince them that his rock opera style (music that tells stories) will be a hit.
Comedian Mike Myers has a cameo as Ray Foster, a music industry big shot who tells Freddie his 6 minute song “Bohemian Rhapsody” sucks and will never make it. This is ironic, given the fact that Myers, in his 1990s movie, “Wayne’s World,” introduced Queen’s music to a whole new young generation. I can tell you I had never heard of Queen until Mike and Co. started banging their heads to Bohemian Rhapsody in their car.
Freddie struggles with demons, both in the music industry and in his personal life. He adores Mary Austin, the love of his life, but it can never be because he’s bisexual. Worse, as he gains fame and fortune, he collects a contingent of hangers-on who feed his ego, urging him to indulge all of his vices – rampant, indiscriminate sex and drugs, drugs and more drugs.
His cross to bear is that he believes himself to be a genius (right in many ways) and so wants to hear he is right no matter what, even when he is wrong. He wants to hear non-stop that he is and wonderful and special and there are plenty of yes men who tell him this but this leads to behavior that ruins his life. He is better off with his bandmates, who are his family. They clash and fight but they also tell him the hard truth – that he needs to clean himself up, get away from drugs, find a solid relationship instead of a different sex partner every day and so on.
This is a breakthrough role for Rami Malek who, for years, I recognized as a familiar face, but never learned his name until now and like the character in his film, his portrayal is genius. Hopefully unlike his character, the success won’t go to his head.
Although it is early in the season, I smell Oscar potential. Few of us will ever experience Mercury’s level of fame, but the lesson may be that a little confidence in ourselves can go a long way towards finding success. Further, maintaining humility and loyalty will help us keep that success once it is achieved.