Why is BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY a pile of crap?

We are dealing with a fairy tale filled with popular songs, only inspired by the life of Freddie Mercury.

Karol Barzowski

29 June 2023

To be clear, Bohemian Rhapsody is a really cool movie. I remember leaving the cinema feeling positive. In my life, however, I would not have thought that this title would win the Golden Globe for the best drama and as many as four Oscars, the most among all nominees. When I read the comments that this is a serious biography of an outstanding, complicated man, I honestly want to laugh. Rather, we are dealing with a fairy tale filled with popular songs, only inspired by the life of Freddie Mercury.

I am well aware that the movie is not real life. Historical or biographical productions cannot be a one-to-one transfer of reality. We all know the saying that the best scripts are written by life itself, but when shooting a movie or a series, it is necessary to shorten, move, brighten, underline, interpret. Generally a lot of things ending in “-anie”. This is obvious to me. Let’s take the Oscar-winning Green Book as an example – the events presented on the screen took place not within two months, but as much as a year and a half. The screenwriter, and at the same time the son of Tony’s original character, Nick Vallelonga, however, assures that all the threads are true, they were just more spread out over time. We, as viewers, are not able to check it anyway. This story is not widely known.

Bohemian Rhapsody

In the case of Bohemian Rhapsody, the matter is much more complicated. The fact that there are some distortions or inaccuracies in the film does not offend me. The Fat Bottomed Girls song played on the first US tour, which is actually from Queen’s seventh album, does not affect the plot in any way – and yet it was good to hear it. The omission that Mercury met his love Mary Austin when she was dating Brian May, I don’t care either. I realize that the romantic thread could lose on such a complication. The movie circumstances of Freddie’s joining the band also do not cause my protest – although in reality all the gentlemen, including the old and the new vocalist, knew each other much earlier than shown in Bohemian Rhapsody, they even lived together for some time. When Tim Staffell decided to leave, Mercury was actually the obvious choice to replace him. It was Staffell who introduced Freddie to the other members of the group – the two had known each other since their time at Ealing Art College. But is it such a big problem? Probably not.

There are many more such differences between real life and the script. The first thing that comes to mind is the question of Mercury meeting long-term partner Jim Hutton or dissolving cooperation with manager John Reid. For the uninitiated, there was no ruse by “enemy number 1”, Paul Prenter. Reid, cooperating with Elton John, simply decided to focus on one artist. And the choice in this case was quite simple for him – he had a non-professional relationship with John.

Screenwriter Anthony McCarten responded to accusations of a very casual treatment of the subject in a truly poetic way. That Bohemian Rhapsody was supposed to be a painting, not a photograph, that a historian would never be a good filmmaker, and so on. Full agreement. The problem is that the drama axis of the entire second part of the film is an event that never happened.

Film Bohemian Rhapsody Rami Malek

In Bohemian Rhapsody we watch as Mercury, led into temptation by the devil in human skin, Paul Prenter’s personal manager and lover, decides to leave the band. He leaves his friends in the cold, parties and alcohol become the most important for him, he even forgets about his only true friend Mary Austin. He bets on a solo career, goes to Germany and loses himself. He has had no contact with the rest of Queen for years. Attempts to reactivate the group on the occasion of the Live Aid concert come to nothing, because Prenter effectively separates Mercury from his old life.

After all, thanks to Austin’s visit, the singer looks at the eyes. The band is back together and preparing for the Live Aid concert – since they haven’t played in years, rehearsals are a real torture for them. Then Mercury says he has AIDS and doesn’t know how much time he has left. The members of Queen grant Freddie’s wish, they don’t dwell on the matter and put music first. On the day of the concert, the famous singer seeks out Jim Hutton, whom he met several years earlier, introduces him to his parents and gives the best performance of his life – knowing that this life will soon end…

Describing what it all looked like on screen, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. It is one thing to dramatize a story, and another to reinvent it, in addition – let’s not be afraid of words – in a rather kitschy style. No breakup of the band ever took place. By 1983, all Queen members said they felt burnout. After 10 years of life on the road, they needed a break. It was a joint decision. Yes, Mercury decided to go solo at that time, but so did Brian May and Roger Taylor. There was no quarrel, the gentlemen were on good terms all the time and had constant contact with each other. They also wrote material for the album The Works by correspondence. This whole hiatus was basically just a cessation of concerts.

Bohemian Rhapsody Rami Malek

When they were preparing for Live Aid, they didn’t have to get along all over again. Barely two months earlier, they had finished touring around the world from August 1984 to May 1985. Singing at Wembley Stadium, Mercury did not know he had AIDS. He was probably not diagnosed until two years later. The rest of Queen found out about the disease in 1988. While Mercury’s relationship with Hutton did indeed begin around Live Aid, the phone book searches, family visits, and other silliness we’re shown in Bohemian Rhapsody are just the writer’s invention.

This is a really nice movie. Malek may be liked (although I would never award him an Oscar for this role), we have good editing and pace here, you can’t get bored during the screening. Queen’s songs resonate in the original, which was the right move – they create the atmosphere of the film. Finally, the performance at Live Aid was made with such attention to detail (well, maybe apart from the overly conspicuous CGI audience) that, despite the earlier buffs, Bohemian Rhapsody leaves the viewer with positive feelings, maybe even emotion. We are dealing with a very well shot pop-style film. But please, let’s not pretend this is an honest biography of Freddie Mercury. This movie has nothing to do with it. It hurts all the more that many people, especially those of the younger generation who do not know the singer’s story, perceive these on-screen nonsense as revealed truth.

If this title was treated as a film primarily entertaining, merely inspired by the history of one of the greatest bands of our time, I would probably wave my hand at it all. However, we are dealing with a “serious biography”, an award-winning production, “the best drama” according to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. By presenting the story of a man who is widely known, you simply cannot allow yourself to distort reality so much. Suddenly, it turns out that one of the basic threads, very important for the message of the film, is a pile of nonsense – and it only takes a minute on Wikipedia to find out.