Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” delivered great numbers at the week-end box-office with a $50M debut. The rock biopic has thus been reborn. I found the film's strongest moments to be the musical sections, which had the band putting together some of their most well-known songs in the studio and, of course, an 11 minute recreation of their legendary 1985 Live Aid performance.
The handicap that any biopic will have in telling a whole life's worth in just 2 hours is understandable. Not to mention the possible restrictions that might come in going for a PG-13 rating. It happens all the time and director Bryan Singer's film is no exception. However, a few things rather irked me about this film. Screenwriter Brian McCarten has quite clearly tried to change history for major dramatic effect, especially in the film's final stretch where he posits bogus claims about the band breaking up, Mercury's HIV diagnosis and the legendary "Live Aid" concert being surrounded by all that aforementioned drama.
Earlier on, Singer's film shows Mercury, after fighting with his parents, attending a 1970 gig by Brian May and Roger Taylor’s pre-Queen band Smile. He goes backstage after the show to meet the band and offers his services as lead vocalist, this is of course done, conveniently, just a few minutes after their bassist/singer Tim Staffell quits. The real story is that Mercury knew Staffell, was a fan of the band before he joined and that Mercury kept pestering them, for months on end, before Brian May finally decided to have him join the band.
Another thing that irked me about the film was how it showed a existentially confused Mercury driving the band to split up. However, they never broke up. No, Freddie signing a solo deal 'behind their back' for $4 million didn't piss them off and no, the band didn't, all of a sudden get back together for "Live Aid" because, well, there never was a breakup. The truth is that Queen was a consistent touring machine for the better part of 10 years and that they were just exhausted to the point of having to take a few months break to regain energy. They all wanted the break. Singer's film makes it look like they were estranged and bitter at one another, which just wasn't the case.
Finally, Mercury biographers have always maintained that the lead singer got his AIDS diagnosis around 1986 and 1987. We don't know for sure the exact date but it most definitely happened at least a year AFTER the 'Live Aid' concert. In the film, Mercury tells the band he is HIV-positive during rehearsals for Live Aid. McCarten and Singer had the clear intent of changing history for dramatic effect. With the band 'reuniting' for the concert and Mercury telling them that he is HIV positive right before, the gig now has added meaning, even if it didn't need any, the performance spoke for itself.
Alas, Hollywood is relentless with these kind of things, they want history to go the way they want it to be perceived.