Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) - Bryan Singer
Freddie Mercury -- the lead singer of Queen -- defies stereotypes and convention to become one of history's most beloved entertainers. The band's revolutionary sound and popular songs lead to Queen's meteoric rise in the 1970s. After leaving the group to pursue a solo career, Mercury reunites with Queen for the benefit concert Live Aid -- resulting in one of the greatest performances in rock 'n' roll history.
Bohemian Rhapsody is based on the iconic British rock band, Queen. With the even more iconic Freddie Mercury as its protagonist. It follows the band from when it was formed in 1970 to one of the best rock performances ever given, Live Aid 1985. Although if you enjoyed this movie; after some research, you probably will reconsider. Bohemian Rhapsody has so many factual errors that if it were up to me, it wouldn’t be considered a ‘true story’.
From a perspective of knowing very little to none about the LGBTQ+ community and the difficulties that members of that community faced and still face today, I thought this film was amazing. Although shortly after learning about the actual history of the band and the LGBTQ+ community, I watched Bohemian Rhapsody again, and didn’t enjoy it.
Here’s why: the number of factual inaccuracies in this movie is genuinely shocking. For example, the ending in the film compared to the true story is nowhere close to being the same. The film shows Mercury telling the rest of his band about his diagnosis of AIDS, just before the 1985 Live Aid performance. In the film this made it look like the diagnosis had been a catalyst for the band to perform better than ever. Until you realise that Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS in April of 1987… Two full years after the Live Aid performance.
Also, the film suggests that the rock band hadn’t played together for years before the Live Aid performance due to the band being broken up because of Mercury signing a private record deal. Both false, because two months before the Live Aid performance they had finished a yearlong world tour of their new album, The Works, released in early 1984 allowing them to be extremely well rehearsed and ready to arguably have the best performance in rock history. As for the band breaking up, Mercury did sign his own record deal, but the band was never mad at him for it and didn’t split up until 1983, due to them all being ‘burned out’ from being on the road for over a decade. So again, another inaccuracy.
The idea that the film manipulates not just these easily verifiable facts, but many more, for cheap narrative gain is misleading and low. They sell a film claiming to be a true story, while mixing up half the facts to give it a more appealing narrative. With everyone watching it being fed lies about one of the most influential music artists to ever live.
Something about this film that I wasn’t sure how to interpret, was the portrayal of Mercury after realising he was gay. (Also, another movie mistake, he was bisexual). From the moment Mercury came out as ‘gay’ the film portrays him as an extremely self-loathing character. With the straight people in his life adding onto this idea, saying things like, “Be careful!” And “Your life is going to be very difficult.” Mercury’s then shown being pulled into a wildlife of partying and sex by the queer characters. That are being portrayed as evil for leading Mercury down a bad path, as they pull him away from his straight friends and family who are consistently shown as ‘flawless saints’.
Mercury’s manager, who supposedly lured him away from the rest of the band and persuades him to take his own personal record deal, subsequently breaking up the band. Making Mercury look like a selfish man with a massive ego doing whatever pays more money. Especially when asking to have a band reunion to perform Live Aid, and leaving the rest of the band, looking perfectly angelic. This is unsurprisingly also a false enactment of what happened. Mercury never broke the band up, and him being shown doing this gives no depth to the plot or his character. I feel that this may have something to do with the other band members being given a voice on what unfairly happens in the film.
After some real digging into the horrible reviews that this movie was given by members of the LGBTQ+ community, I also found that there is a subtle ‘joke’ hidden in between the lines. A scene ends with Mercury being led into a room by Prenter, obviously suggesting that they are about to have sex. While this happens, the hit song Another One Bites the Dust plays in the background and cuts to the next scene before anything happens. The ‘joke’ becomes obvious when you see Mercury, lying in bed looking sickly and coughing as the song continues to play. The joke being Mercury is ‘biting the dust’. I have 2 comments about this part of the film, whether it was unintentional or not. To anyone that understands this ‘joke,’ ‘coincidence,’ whatever you want to call it, is 1: Given false information that it was Prenter that gave Mercury HIV, as it can’t be proven it was him. And 2: It reinforces the dangerous and misleading idea, of AIDS being a ‘punishment’ for having gay sexual relationships.
In the film, with the help of Mary Austin, Mercury’s ex-wife, he realises how his manager has been ostracizing him from the life that he wanted. Mercury fires his manager and goes back to where he belongs: surrounded exclusively by ‘angelic’ straight people, who are ready to forgive him for ‘abandoning’ them to pursue other aspirations and live life as a queer person. (He did not abandon them.) Only after Mercury apologises for his fictional ‘abandoning’ is when the film decides that it’s okay for him to find love.
“We might not actually know if Mercury found pride in his sexuality in real life, but since the film has no issue making everything else up, why not give him a scene where he really comes into his own as the queer icon that he was?”
- Peter Knegt
Bohemian Rhapsody shows us that after an extravagant party, the lonely, drunk Mercury grabbed a waiter’s ass with no consent. This waiter seemed offended and angry at the action and went on to threaten Mercury for groping him. After that, him and Hutton had a long conversation where they somehow seemed to be enjoying each other’s company even after a threat. Then ending with Hutton walking away, and Mercury asking when he could see him again, to which he replied, “Come find me when you like yourself.” The film then shows us that years later, Mercury spends a lot of time to find him but eventually shows up at Jim Hutton’s house. Then he takes him to his parents’ house for dinner, where he awkwardly comes out to his family, making it seem as if him and Jim are dating after they’ve known each other for no more than an hour.
Instead of just telling the truth about Jim Hutton Bohemian Rhapsody decided to make up this rushed ending for Mercury to find love in the end. When the true story would have worked much better. Instead of rushing past a handful of awkward moments with Mercury’s Family, they could have met in a gay nightclub as they did in real life. This happened 5 months before Live Aid, so the timeline would be long enough to show a quick couple clips of them engaging in a healthy relationship while still allowing all the events to lead up to Live Aid. It was a confusing and unneeded change in the story as all it did was take away from Mercury’s character.
As this movie is rated PG-13, many young people will have seen this, and it be the first big movie they see with queer characters and queer love. What would it teach them, apart from a great deal of factual errors about Freddie Mercury’s Life? That if you’re queer, you will hate yourself? That you’re nothing without your “straight family”? There is one solid fact I’ve taken from this film: There are countless errors implemented to create a more interesting (sometimes less) story, for more money whilst not giving a care in the world about the legacy of arguably one of the most influential music artists: Freddie Mercury.