A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bohemian Rhapsody is a fact-based drama about the rock band Queen, particularly its talented and charismatic lead singer, Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek). While there's quite a bit of drinking (including to excess), as well as characters taking cocaine, the movie isn't as edgy as you might expect for the subject and era. Sex is implied between a man and a woman (they kiss, lie in bed together, etc.), and men kiss and flirt with each other, but there's no graphic nudity. And language includes a use of "f--k," plus "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," and some racial slurs (e.g., "Paki") but isn't extreme. Characters also fight, argue, and shout, and a rock crashes through a window. Like many musical biopics, the movie boasts a strong central performance and inspiring song performances, but the rest is pretty routine. But it should still please the band's fans.
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What's the story?
In BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, Freddie Bulsara (Rami Malek) dreams of being a singer and goes to clubs to hear his favorite band play. When their lead singer quits, Freddie gets the job. He changes his last name to Mercury, and the band becomes Queen. Thanks to Mercury's astonishing vocal range and the band's hard rock sound, they find immediate success. Freddie marries his sweetheart, Mary (Lucy Boynton), and starts to deal with the pitfalls of fame, including drinking and drugs, ego wars, and his own sexual identity. Spending time with the wrong entourage sends Freddie down a bad path, pursuing a doomed solo career. In 1985, when Queen is invited to play the Live Aid show, Freddie must apologize to his former bandmates and get their groove back. Can they be ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Is it any good?
The music sequences in this drama (especially the Live Aid performance and the recording of the title song) are electrifying, and Malek is magnetic, but overall the movie is slavishly by-the-numbers. Credited to Bryan Singer, who ended up getting fired and replaced by director Dexter Fletcher, Bohemian Rhapsody is almost exactly like many other music biopics, with the same plot arcs covering the rise to success, creativity in action, pitfalls of fame, fighting, bad influences, wrong choices, and then redemption. These real-life stories are of course worth telling, but the difference between following a formula -- one that was thoroughly skewered a decade ago in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story -- and discovering genuine moments of intimacy and life is crucial.
Bohemian Rhapsody had an opportunity with the exuberant Live Aid show, which lasted 20 minutes in real life and made history; here it's the movie's triumphant climax, but it could have been a centerpiece. It's still impressive and very much worth the wait, as is the energized recording of the title song, a joyous circus of creative abandon. It's in these scenes that the band works as a team, while in the more ordinary sequences, Mercury is the lone focus; everything that happens is in relation to him. Given that the movie seems to want to be about families and bonds, it's a little too weighted to one side. But Malek, even acting through a mouthful of prosthetic teeth, does justice to the role; we come away with a great affection for both him and Mercury.
Talk to your kids about ...
Mercury is portrayed as being attracted to people of both sexes. Do you feel that this is a realistic depiction of him and his sexuality?
Is Mercury a role model? What are his achievements? What are his flaws? Do the former outweigh the latter?
Were you a Queen fan before watching the movie? Did the movie make you appreciate their music more?
The movie is based on real people and events, but not everything happened the way it's depicted here. Why do you think filmmakers might choose to alter the facts in films based on true stories? How could you find out more about Mercury and Queen?
- In theaters: November 2, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: February 12, 2019
- Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Tom Hollander
- Director: Bryan Singer
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 134 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award, Golden Globe
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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