Finally convinced myself to watch this last night, as I’m doing a bit of business travel this weekend.
For context: I think I can state pretty convincingly that there aren’t many folks here who were bigger Queen fans than I was in the mid-to-late 1970s. The Sheer Heart Attack album was the second record I ever bought with my own allowance money, in 1976 or 1977. I played it until the grooves were almost smooth. I was 9 or 10. It was utterly transformative, and sounded like the coolest thing I’d ever heard.
I bought Night At the Opera when I was 12, at Sears. I can remember the night: it was pouring rain and there was a huge thunderstorm and I’d saved up enough money to buy both the Queen album and the original soundtrack to Star Wars that same trip to the mall with mom. I think I played “The Prophet’s Song” and “Sweet Lady” that night on headphones over and over again until I fell asleep in my bedroom leaning up against the bed. I did pretty much the same with Day at the Races, and then News Of The World came out in the late 1970s. I can remember getting that record, and listening to it, and being totally rocked…and then completely disappointed. I think I was like 13 years old then, and even I realized what a disaster the latter half of that record was…and by “Get Down Make Love”, I realized they’d lost me.
I think I liked the movie well enough for what it was. I expected going in for it to be a flawed, kinda broken thing. And it is. But it also does a lot of good stuff, too.
I felt like the film is missing like a 10-15 minute section – or at least a montage – that shows the band going from playing clubs to discussing “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the record exec’s office. I mean, that’s the good stuff, when the band makes that critical push out of obscurity…and there’s nothing here to show us why Queen is important or famous or anything else, really.
And I felt like they kind of sanitized Freddie’s sexuality and the conflicts that played in his life. I realize they wanted to hold their PG-13 rating, but this felt like a network TV prime time depiction of what it was like to be an aggressively closeted – but flamboyant – gay man in the 1970s. And they did Freddie and the band a weird, ghoulish disservice by the Live Aid buildup. The band didn’t break up at all (they had done a HUGELY successful tour that ended just a few weeks before Live Aid), and Mercury hadn’t found out he was even HIV-positive at the time of their performance.
Still for what it was, I think I liked it OK, knowing what I was going to get before I watched it. And I absolutely adored the scene where Roger and Brian argue over their songs on A Night at the Opera. Even as a 11 or 12 year old kid, I thought “I’m In Love With My Car” stuck out on that record like a sore thumb. And while “Sweet Lady” is a treee-mendous hard rock song, Brian’s line about “You call me sweet like I’m some kinda cheese” felt super-weird to me as a kid, too.
Finally…I’d love a Brian May biopic. I mean, that would be pretty damn good, right?