Should biopics like 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and 'Green Book' be accurate?

Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

What kind of accuracy do you expect from movies based on real people or events?

Maybe a better question might be: What kind of accuracy do you want? And are you willing to swallow a few falsehoods in the name of good entertainment?

Unlike documentaries, narrative features based on true-life stories tend to occupy this nebulous middle ground between fiction and nonfiction, where details and timelines become collapsed or murky. Side characters or entire moments are created out of whole cloth for the sake of story expediency.

For me, good biopics are shaped around facts rather than fudges. As a journalist, that's something I think about all the time when I approach my own work: That it's not only possible but vital to tell true stories in interesting and compelling ways, inconvenient details and all.

The rules aren't the same when it comes to telling a cohesive story on screen, requiring different skills and nuanced decisions. Film is -- and should be -- an artistic expression. I want filmmakers to have the space to be creative and stray from the record to underscore certain ideas or themes.

I just don't want to feel lied to by a movie.

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Golden Globe winners "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Green Book" have both been criticized for this and I think with good reason.

I won't list all the discrepancies here; you can find numerous stories online that go into detail. But let's talk about key elements from each film that depart from reality. In the case of "Bohemian Rhapsody," which is about the band Queen and its charismatic frontman Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), one aspect is the timing of Mercury's HIV diagnosis.

Writing about movies for a living means thinking about what kinds of stories they tell, so I rang up some of my colleagues to get their take.

Here's Kevin Fallon, the senior entertainment reporter for The Daily Beast:


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