Rocketman is the highly anticipated biopic about the early life of music giant Elton John. Admittedly, I'm only a casual fan of Elton's... but I'm a big, big fan of this movie. Whether you are a true and loyal Elton fan or not, buckle up! You're in for a treat.
Now, I'm sure many are thinking, "Another biopic about a legendary musician?" Yes, this movie comes us just off an awards season that saw Bohemian Rhapsody clean up in several categories including Best Actor. Inevitably, these two films are going to be compared, so I'll just tackle that right here from the top.
While they are similar in tone and subject matter (and share a director), Rocketman executes in a way that Bohemian Rhapsody frankly did not. The way Elton John was brought to life on screen had a deeper level of authenticity than Rami Malek's Freddie Mercury seemed to. To be fair, I blame a lot of that on the not-so-subtle sanitizing of the true character Freddie was rather than the performance. That being said, I walked away from BoRhap thinking Malek emulated Freddie's iconic stage presence well, but I have to say Taron Egerton utterly became Elton John. Not only was Taron Egerton's performance just so honest and human, but the storytelling was about as good as you could get.
The story is told from the framework of an adult Elton John at an AA meeting recounting his heartbreaking childhood with horrible parents and his subsequent meteoric rise to fame. This perspective allows the story to be told in a fantastical, over-the-top way which suits its subject beautifully. The songs in the film are remarkably used as storytelling devices to either give insight to Elton's inner thoughts, to allow other characters to interact, or to move the timeline along quickly rather than using a traditional montage. Every song is thoughtfully placed and beautifully shot. It's really a sight to behold how perfectly every song is utilized to keep pushing the story forward. I particularly loved the complicated stories told through the title song, "Rocketman" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."
The film tackles several of Elton's deep-rooted issues head on including alcoholism, drug use, addictions to sex and shopping and bulimia. It's a testament to Elton John being completely on board with sharing some of the most intimate details of some of his lowest lows and incredible highs. You truly felt his journey every step of the way.
I can't say enough wonderful things about Taron Egerton in this movie. Not only did he find a deeply authentic way to tell Elton John's story, but he also sang every song. Yes, you read that right... Elton John's voice is nowhere to be found throughout this film, and I'll tell you, you won't miss it. There were truly moments I thought I was hearing or watching Elton. His first performance of "Crocodile Rock" at the Troubadour is magical and completely captivating. Not only does he nail the performances, but his face in some of the quieter, emotional close ups will wreck you they're so good. I hope we'll see him in the mix come awards season this time around. I'm sure there will be plenty of debate about having another musician biopic star in the hunt, but Taron deserves the recognition.
Not to be outdone, Taron's starring role was strongly supported by the actors around him, specifically Jamie Bell who portrays Elton's long time friend and lyricist, Bernie Taupin. Their friendship and chemistry in the movie is emotional, raw and truly delightful. It put a smile on my face knowing he was sitting right next to Elton at the premiere during the Cannes Film Festival. Bryce Dallas Howard plays his enraging mother with all the nuance you could ever ask for. Steven Mackintosh plays his steely, cold father devastatingly well. There's one particular scene with a grown Elton that will absolutely rip your heart out. As a Game of Thrones and Bodyguard fan, I have to shout out Richard Madden who will make you hate him as Elton's slimy manager/sometimes lover, John Reid. I could go on, but every supporting role in this film was excellent.
Everything about this movie hit just the right note from the star, to the brilliant costuming, to the brilliant and clever direction. Dexter Fletcher really knocked it out of the park using all the flashiness required to tell an authentic Elton John story. It left me wondering what Bohemian Rhapsody could have been if he had the helm from the beginning rather than rescuing it post-Bryan Singer departure. Regardless, I'm thrilled to recommend this film to movie and music lovers alike. Rocketman is worth the trip to the theater to experience Elton Hercules John on a big screen.
Brit's Pro Tip: Be sure to stay through the credits for some incredible side-by-side photos of real-life Elton and his outrageous attire, then a duet recorded by Taron and Elton which plays as the credits roll.