Movie Review by Daniel DeRey
Rocketman is the musical biopic of Elton John directed by Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle), written by Lee Hall (Billy Elliott), and starring Taron Edgerton (Kingsman) in the lead role. The film focuses on the life of Elton John from his years as a little kid to his rise as one of the most popular musical artists of all time, while also chronicling his many personal issues with drugs, alcohol, and depression.
Rocketman is not your traditional musical biopic. This biopic is a jukebox musical film that uses Elton John’s songs to tell the story of his life. While there are plenty of times where the film dives deep into the issues that John dealt with during the apex of his career, the film is not afraid to use metaphorical and fantasy-like song sequences to convey the emotions that its characters are going through. Despite the fact that the characters break out into song in dance in the middle of scenes, the movie is still grounded in its emotional storytelling. The people who believe that last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody didn’t dive enough into its protagonist’s demons and sex life are going to appreciate this film’s fearlessness in exploring all of the problems that Elton John had to go through while navigating through his extravagant life of fame.
The musical sequences are filmed incredibly well, as is the rest of the film. The cinematography is gorgeous and the entire film looks beautiful, especially during the more fantastical song sequences. The choreography from Adam Murray is very fun and works well with the style and atmosphere of the many different numbers. The many close ups on Elton John’s face during his more sorrowful moments allow us the chance to soak in the moment, whether joyous or heartbreaking.
Rocketman successfully paints an honest and relatable picture of what Elton John’s emotional mindset was during his years as a child and as an adult. We, as the viewers, get to go with him on a journey, and see the important people in his life and what impact they left on him, for better or for worse. Every time Elton John makes a bad choice or slips deeper into his demons, the more disappointed and dejected we feel as an audience. The film moves at a slightly slower pace in the third act, which really makes you feel as if you are drifting through the drudge of fame along with Elton and feel bad for every low he hits.
The acting is fantastic all across the board. Taron Edgerton gives such a fantastic larger than life performance as Elton John, and in addition to his incredible singing voice, he brings the perfect balance of flamboyant confidence and pained anxiety to make Elton come alive on screen. His performance is transformational and I will not be surprised if he gets nominated for an Oscar for his performance. Also Oscar-worthy in this film is Bryce Dallas Howard who plays Elton John’s mother. Howard plays the character perfectly, capturing how truly awful the real woman was towards her son, and in playing one of the year’s most detestable characters she also gave one of the best supporting performances of the year so far. Jamie Bell does a great job as Elton John’s best friend and songwriter, Bernie Taupin, adding sincerity and a sweetness that brightens the mood of the film whenever he’s on screen. His chemistry with Edgerton’s Elton is very charming and heartwarming, and their friendship reminded me of the one between Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings. Bell is so likeable as Taupin, that I really feel like he wasn’t utilized to his full potential. Elton John’s lover and manager, John Reid is also played to great success by Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), who manages to switch between charming and despicable with aces, and the sequence where him and Edgerton sing “Honky Cat” was one of my favorite moments in the film.
The only major problem that I had with Rocketman was its resolution. For starters, the film ends way too abruptly. Once the final song sequence ended, I thought that the film had at least ten to fifteen more minutes left, but I was wrong as the film faded to black. It’s not just the rushed nature of the ending itself, but despite doing a great job at showing what led to Elton John’s addictions and problems, the film doesn’t do a very good job at showing what specifically leads to him getting past all of those issues. In a movie that drags you through Elton John’s depression, a more cathartic climb back to the top could have provided the catharsis needed for the movie to hit a home run.
All in all, Rocketman is a fantastic biopic and a very creative musical. It tells the story of Elton John’s early life, rising career, and personal issues with great care and passion, but also knows when to lighten up the mood with a fun musical number. The songs are beautifully sung, the performances are terrific, and Dexter Fletcher captured the true spirit of Elton John in the highs and lows of his life. Despite not having the most satisfying ending, I will still recommend Rocketman to those who like musicals, musical biopics, or Elton John’s music in general. I’m going to give Rocketman an A-.
See ya at the next show,