Right now, audiences are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to music-fueled biopics about some of the greatest singers and songwriters of our generation. Whether it’s Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star is Born or the up-and-coming Rocketman, there’s much for folks to enjoy at the moment.
With Bohemian Rhapsody in particular, we’re given a chance to watch Rami Malek disappear into the role of Freddie Mercury, Queen’s iconic frontman who redefined the parameters of pop music. And though the film seems to be playing well with audiences so far, it’s apparently full of historical inaccuracies, and several outlets are taking it upon themselves to call that out.
Both The Wrap and Screen Rant have published interesting pieces which highlight some of the errors that Bohemian Rhapsody makes while telling its story. One of the biggest, though, is that the movie seems to paint Mercury as a bad guy for wanting to produce a solo album. However, the truth of the matter is, other band members had already put out solo efforts before that. Drummer Roger Taylor, for instance, released solo albums in both 1981 and 1984, before Mercury did it in 1985.
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The other thing people are taking issue with is the HIV diagnosis. If you’ll recall, Bohemian Rhapsody uses this pivotal moment in his life to “cement the band’s reformation” shortly before Live Aid. In real life, however, Mercury didn’t even know he had the illness at that point. The concert took place in 1985 and he was diagnosed in 1987, and that’s something which critics aren’t too happy about.
“I’ve never seen a film distort its facts in such a punitive way. It’s like the movie wants to punish Freddie Mercury,” wrote UPROXX’s Mike Ryan. “Mercury’s tragic death from AIDS was a defining moment in the early ’90s fight for AIDS awareness. To now retcon his illness into his Live Aid performance seems flippant and cruel.”
“The film’s handling of Mercury’s HIV diagnosis is “a cruel and manipulative version of tragedy porn that is inaccurate and perpetuates the trope of AIDS as punishment for gay promiscuity,” said Daily Beast writer Kevin Fallon.
“It’s inexplicably perverse that the movie retcons Mercury’s HIV diagnosis as the band’s motivation for Live Aid,” IndieWire’s David Ehrlich added. “It’s insulting to see the lengths to which this film tries to capture the melodrama of Queen’s music, and humiliating to see the lengths by which it fails.”
Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that almost any non-fiction film is going to take creative liberties with the story it’s telling, and though it’s not hard to see where these critics are coming from, it’s also understandable that Bohemian Rhapsody needed to make some of these alterations in order to craft a more compelling movie.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right to do so, and again, it’s easy to see why people are taking issue with it, but it’s often the way things go in Hollywood and it’s not a trend we see dying down anytime soon. And in any case, it doesn’t seem to be affecting this particular film too much, with Bohemian Rhapsody scoring a solid opening weekend and proving to be a hit with moviegoers.