Published Nov 05, 2018The Bryan Singer-directed Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody opened to some pretty poor reviews this weekend, but taking things from bad to worse is now the fact that fans and critics alike are pointing out some glaring factual errors with the film. In fact, some have even gone as far as calling the film an insult to Freddie Mercury, writing off the whole thing as "a cruel and manipulative version of tragedy porn."
While Singer directed the film, the script was written by Anthony McCarten with the approval from Queen band members Brian May and Roger Taylor. However, just because actual members of the band were involved, this doesn't mean you should believe everything you see in Bohemian Rhapsody, even if Exclaim!'s own review praised the film for its pure entertainment value.
In fact, there are a lot of things you shouldn't believe in Bohemian Rhapsody, as this extensive list of fact errors published by Screen Rant shows. But while that list goes three whole pages deep, there are two things in particular that are rattling fans when it comes to the filmmakers twisting the Queen story into a convenient cinematic package.
For many critics and fans out there, the fact error that has them most up in arms is the film's handling of singer Freddie Mercury's HIV diagnosis. In the film, Mercury — played by Rami Malek — learns he is ill shortly before Queen reunited to play the legendary Live Aid concert, with this diagnosis then cementing the band's reformation.
However, the real-life Mercury most likely did not even know of his illness until long after the Live Aid performance. According to Queen lore, Mercury wasn't diagnosed with HIV until April 1987, but Live Aid took place a whole two years before that in 1985. And it's this huge altering of history that has many up in arms about the accuracy of Bohemian Rhapsody.
The folks over at IndieWire have collected just a few of the responses from critics, including this gem from UPROXX's Mike Ryan: "I've never seen a film distort its facts in such a punitive way. It's like the movie wants to punish Freddie Mercury. 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."
In a piece called "'Bohemian Rhapsody' Is an Insult to Freddie Mercury," Daily Beast writer Kevin Fallon said the handling of Mercury's HIV diagnosis in the film was "a cruel and manipulative version of tragedy porn that is inaccurate and perpetuates the trope of AIDS as punishment for gay promiscuity."
In IndieWire's own review, writer David Ehrlich said, "It's inexplicably perverse that the movie retcons Mercury's HIV diagnosis as the band's motivation for Live Aid. 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."
As for the second major factual inaccuracy in Bohemian Rhapsody, the film portrays Freddie Mercury as a sort of villain for wanting to cash in and pursue a solo career with an album of his own. And while this is used as a big dramatic point in the film, the fact is that he wasn't even the first member of Queen to do a solo album.
As Google will clearly tell you, drummer Roger Taylor released a solo album in 1981 (Fun in Space) and another in 1984 (Strange Frontier). As for Mercury, his first solo effort Mr. Bad Guy didn't arrive until 1985.
On screen, though, the movie leads you to believe that it was Mercury's solo ambitions that caused friction in Queen, even though Taylor — who is played by Ben Hardy in the movie and presented as Mercury's biggest rival in the band — already made two solo albums in real life way before Mercury ever did.
All this being said, Bohemian Rhapsody did fetch $50 million USD at the North American box office this weekend, so maybe it doesn't really matter.