Rocketman (2019)


I was around 17 when I was introduced to Elton John's music and it was love at first sight sound. No matter what mood I am in, there's always room for his music in my life because, whether it's a sad song, a happy, joyous one, or something just danceable, he always makes me feel something. It comes without saying that I was very excited about Dexter Fletcher's Rocketman and, having read plenty of positive reviews, I also had very high expectations. Expectations that were met as Fletcher's is a flamboyant and highly entertaining musical fantasy film, an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.

A dramatization of Elton John's life, Rocketman opens with Elton John (Taron Egerton) as he makes his way into rehab rocking a devilish outfit, and starts telling his life story. 

The son of an apathetic father, Stanley (Steven Mackintosh), and a distant mother, Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard), Reginald Dwight (Matthew Illesley) shows interest in playing the piano at a very young age and emerges as a child prodigy. 

An older Reggie (Edgerton) begins to perform in pubs, soon adopts the stage name of Elton John — Elton from Elton Dean, and John from the famous Beatle, although the latter is not actually true —, teams up with songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and lands a record deal with Dick James (Stephen Graham). From here, his life soon spirals out of control as alcohol, drugs and John Reid (Richard Madden) make their way into his life. 

One of the most striking aspects of Rocketman is the way it chronicles Elton's life. While it covers early life, rise, high and lows of a career like most biopics do, it does in its own unique way. Once the transition from Reggie to Elton is completed, rather than telling its story in chronological order, the film jumps from one song to another, one event to another in a rather random manner — the songs don't even match the time period —, and it's the music that drives the story. It could have ended up being a clumsy mess but the unusual storytelling paid off as each song is wonderfully used to represent the ups and downs in Elton's career and life, and the result is an entertaining feast.

Rocketman comes with some flaws too though. While he does a good job at portraying the rockstar, his excesses and the struggle with his sexuality, director and writer Dexter Fletcher painted the superstar in a completely positive light, almost as a spotless, faultless man who has never done wrong in his life — I'm, however, willing to overlook this as the film is not a documentary but a fantasy biopic. Also, there are countless parts of the rockstar's life that have either been left out or given no importance whatsoever, and John's relationship both as a business partner and friend to Bernie Taupin is quite shallow and under-developed, as it is that with his mother — it lacked emotional power because of this — and with his manager and lover John Reid. I get that Fletcher wanted to make a film about the legend but it would have hurt nobody if he had given more space to those aspects of John's life.

As I mentioned above, the film is musical and it does excellent on that front. Whether it's just Elton performing alone or other people join him — at some point Elton duets with his younger self and it's quite amazing —, the numbers and songs are always entertaining and emotional — I cried, I laughed, I got mad, and I had fun. The numbers are bizarre and often cheesy but they really make the most of the songs' lyrics and their subtexts.

The other striking aspect of Rocketman is the acting, specifically Taron Egerton's performance as he knocks it out of the park as the deeply troubled musical genius. Not only he nails his appearance — he put on weight, shaved his head to recreate John's receding hairline, and painted a gap between his front teeth — but his personality and, especially, his voice as well. It doesn't feel like Egerton is trying to play or imitate John, rather it feels like he's John as he embodies the rockstar's ups and downs to perfection. And his singing is, unsurprisingly as he has sung one of John's songs in the past, outstanding — and yet there are people complaining about Taron doing his own singing as opposed to having him lip-syncing to Elton John's actual songs. It's an Oscar-worthy performance but sadly he won get one because the Academy awarded Malek this year.

The supporting cast also gives in strong performances. Whether it's Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin, or Bryce Dallas Howard as Reggie's distant, bitchy mother, or Gemma Jones's caring grandma, they all are great.  Richard Madden too does a great job as John's manager and lover as well as the film's villain, his chemistry with Egerton is great and their sex scene is hot.

Will Rocketman be the best film of 2019? No, it won't as it does have its flaws, and it can be incredibly cheesy at times, but it's a fun and enjoyable musical film with wonderful performance, lavishing visuals and gorgeous costumes, that is very likely to be my favourite film of the year.

8 comments :

  1. I have this saved in my Netflix queue for when it comes out on DVD. I'm not the biggest Elton fan, but it seems like it's at least worth a watch.

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    1. I'm not sure you'll enjoy it then. But it's still worth a watch for Taron's performance.

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  2. I'm kind of surprised it was overlooked by most people (I feel like it got way less attention than Bohemian Rhapsody). Maybe it happened because it was so positive and perfect, like a musical, and not so dramatic. Also, not as much promo as BR had. Great review!

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    1. I guess that was part of the reason. Probably people also thought it was going to be bad like Bohemian Rhapsody. Or they just couldn't care less about a movie about a living legend. Had Elton died long ago, maybe more people would have seen it. Human beings are so fucked up.

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  3. I'll give this a shot even though Elton's music isn't at like what I listen to, but this seems less of a mess than that awful Queen movie. Glad you liked it so much!

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    1. Oh it is so much better than that trash. It's a bit messy but it's so entertaining!

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  4. I really enjoyed the film as well which was a relief after suffering through the slop that is Bohemian Rhapsody. The fact that Taron did his own singing only enhanced his performance for me, as opposed to BR (they apparently hand out Oscars for lip-syncing now!)

    The movie reminded me a great deal of The Who's Tommy. Not so much the story but the free form performative nature of the scenes (sadly though there was no Ann-Margret).

    I don't know if it's a film I could watch frequently but I did truly like it.

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    1. I can't believe there are people bitching about Taron doing his own singing instead of lip-syncing like Malek. I mean, it's not a documentary, so if the actor plays a singer he/she should sing.

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