Starring Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Bruce Dallas Howard, Richard Madden, Gemma Jones,
Like with Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s impossible not to be moved by the performance of the leading actor. Only this time, Dexter Fletcher gets full credit and doesn’t have to worry about controversy. Taron Egerton might have a bit more feature film experience than Rami Malik did, but still a relative newcomer portraying an icon. Elton John told the Kingsman actor not to replicate but to make the role his own. Egerton is having so much fun in the role from the insane costumes to showing off his dance skills and vocal chords. The most rewarding benefit of Rocketman is Egerton and the rest of the cast are actually singing. The first act and a half of Rocketman is enthusiastic and very charming. Like most of these musical biopics, once we get to the self-loathing, drugs and alcohol abuse, it becomes a big stagnant. For all it’s creativity in others areas, Fletcher and Billy Elliott screenwriter Lee Hall can’t come up with a way to make the inevitable downfall any better than all the others.
Reginald Dwight just wanted love an affection as a child, but there wasn’t any to be found in his household; A selfish mother (Howard) and a despondent father (Steven Mackintosh). It was his grandmother (Jones) who encouraged his talent for playing the piano and learning music by ear. Music became a figurative and literal escape for Dwight, who later changed his name to Elton John (Egerton), as he quickly became famous around the world. The unloved paradox wasn’t the only thing Elton struggled with on his rise to fame, his sexuality a question mark personally and how the truth might effect stardom. Whether on the rise or spiraling downward due to substance abuse, Bernie Taupin (Bell), his songwriter since day one, was the one person who stuck by him through everything.
Fletcher and Egerton infuse the first half of the film with so much splendor, when the back-half slows down a bit it feels like coming off a sugar high.
Original songs and inner monologues are just a few elements Fletcher uses in this musical biopic that weren’t on the table when he tried to salvage the train wreck that was Bohemian Rhapsody last year. Rocketman is a more assured and artistic endeavor, it feels cinematic in the exact way the Queen biopic lacked. It’s also rated R which allowed the filmmakers to cover more realistic material in Elton’s early roller coaster years, despite the film’s tagline of “based on a true fantasy”. The sequence in the film that covers Elton John creating his masterpiece “Your Song”, moved the audience to applause. It’s one of the best moments in the picture, because he writes it looking directly at his best friend Bernie, which ends up meaning more in the end than we realize in the moment. So much was made about the love scene between Game of Thrones Richard Madden and Egerton, but the payoff doesn’t quite match the hype.
Fletcher and Egerton (who previously worked together in Eddie the Eagle) infuse the first half of the film with so much splendor, when the back-half slows down a bit, it feels like coming off a sugar high. The concept of telling Elton’s story via a therapy session where he reminisces, is a clever framing technique that also has a big payoff in the end. The aging makeup used for Bell and Howard is a bit alarming and makes them look more diseased than wrinkly. Admittingly not a fan of either Queen or Elton John, this film has much more to offer regardless of the viewers interest in the music. A more traditional musical than Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s also the smart kind that always advances the plot and character development with each song.
Taron Egerton’s transformation into Elton John is a sight to behold in a film bursting with creativity, and sequins.