Bohemian Rhapsody charts the true story of Freddie Mercury and Queen’s rise to fame and fortune. However, the film isn’t entirely accurate in its retelling of the band’s history.
Aside from Freddie’s witty barbs – and some sarcastic interplay between the band – Bohemian Rhapsody takes its subjects rather seriously. Starring Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury and Gwilym Lee as Brian May, the movie shows Queen crafting their iconic hits and their eventual triumph at 1985’s Live Aid concert. Yet Queen aficionados are sure to notice that timelines have been tampered with and that occasionally some details don’t add up.
This is to be expected somewhat. From Argo to BlacKkKlansman, Hollywood has a long track record of sensationalizing real events for big screen biopics. Yet this isn’t always done to heighten the fictionalized dramatic stakes. Some milestones have to be condensed to fit into that two-hour time frame, or they can’t be portrayed due to rights or permissions being withheld.
In the case of Bohemian Rhapsody, several events are rearranged to create a potent dramatic effect. This approach is most notable towards the end of the film, as the Live Aid concert looms. As many reviews have noted, the result is an occasionally spectacular – if sanitized – celebration of Queen’s history, which shows off the band at their very best.
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- Page 3: Bohemian Rhapsody's Ending & Reframing Freddie Mercury's Death
Bohemian Rhapsody Changes Almost Everything About Queen's Formation
Bohemian Rhapsody's first act details how Queen emerged from their humble beginnings and crafted some of rock music’s most popular songs. It is true that these eclectic personalities – a dentist, astrophysicist, electrical engineer and Parsi immigrant – came to form Queen. But Bohemian Rhapsody does switch up the way in which they all met up.
Following a glimpse at Queen’s Live Aid glory, Bohemian Rhapsody flashes back to Freddie Mercury’s days as a college student and baggage handler at Heathrow Airport. Soon after, the young and shy Farrokh Bulsara heads out to watch the band Smile perform. When bassist Tim Staffell quits at the end of the show, Bulsara plucks up the courage and meets with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. He soon impresses them with his talent, and Freddie is readily accepted as their new lead vocalist.
Far from being that shy youth onscreen, Freddie was always "supremely confident," according to Brian May. According to several sources, it seems that the young Freddie Mercury always believed that he was always going to be a star. Indeed, he’d already been part of a group called Ibex, prior to his partnering with Queen. Plus, he was not unknown to the band at that point; Freddie shared a flat with May, Taylor and Staffell for a time, and they even joined Freddie and Ibex for their encore in Liverpool, in 1969. As such, Freddie’s replacing of Staffell was not as spontaneous at the movie suggests.
Bohemian Rhapsody Cuts Much Of Mary Austin Out Of Freddie's Life
That first Smile gig is a somewhat fateful evening for Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Prior to joining the band that will become Queen, young Freddie also bumps into a young Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) with whom he immediately connects with. Soon after Freddie visits her in Biba, the shop where she works, and their connection evolves from there.
Freddie and Mary Austin’s long and abiding love for each other is portrayed in a generally faithful manner in Bohemian Rhapsody. However, their movie counterparts experience things a little differently than reality. In fact, Brian May revealed (via Yahoo) that he’d been dating Austin before Freddie first met her in the shop. After she caught his eye, Freddie sought May’s permission before asking her out, and she only began to follow Smile (soon to be Queen) later on.
Its similarly true that Freddie proposed to her, and that they remained close during their relationships with other people and throughout the entirety of Queen’s ascension. In real life, she even served as his personal assistant for a time. Moreover, Freddie stated that she was “impossible to replace,” and Mary expressed similar sentiments about Queen’s lead singer to Refinery29:
“We'd done it for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. You could never have let go of Freddie unless he died — and even then it was difficult."
This enduring loving bond slightly contrasts with Bryan Singer’s film, which depicts a rift developing after Freddie’s partying escalates. Given what is known about this unique pair, there’s little evidence to suggest that this was the case.
Freddie Mercury's Sexuality Gets Downplayed In Bohemian Rhapsody
Queen might be known as legends for their music, but Freddie Mercury was also known for his partying, and his substantial sexual appetite. Yet Bohemian Rhapsody refuses to showcase this, aside from the occasional glimpse of white powder and the odd scene of Freddie in a club. This is due to producer Graham King (via THR) wanting to keep the film as family-friendly as possible, so that more tickets can be sold to more demographics.
It’s an understandable business move. However, for a film about Queen, it’s an odd decision, since sexuality – especially homosexuality – is so key to the essence of the band. Moreover, this line of thought brings us to one of Bohemian Rhapsody’s standout sequences: Freddie’s coming out to Mary. Malek’s Freddie asserts that he thinks he is bisexual. Mary responds by stating that he is gay. On the one hand, Bohemian Rhapsody does win accuracy points for replicating this scene almost word for word. But on the other, by failing to depict Freddie’s hedonism, the film creates other problems for itself.
After this scene, Bohemian Rhapsody only depicts Freddie with same-sex partners, such as Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) and Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker). The movie never challenges Mary’s assertion – both fictional and real – that he was only truly interested in men. It’s a crucial point, because Freddie refused to label himself throughout his life. Certainly, whilst he saw many men after confiding in Mary, there’s plenty of evidence to say that Freddie remained interested in women as well. Indeed, German actress Barbara Valentin was notably one of Mercury’s numerous female lovers.
Some may believe that this isn’t such an important point to make. But by not clearly distinguishing his orientation, the film does do Freddie a disservice. Similarly, whilst he was close with his parents, Freddie never came out to them, nor revealed that Jim Hutton was his partner. When asked, Freddie told them that Hutton was his gardener!
Page 2 of 3: Bohemian Rhapsody Invents Fake Queen Drama
- Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) release date: Nov 02, 2018