Rocketman is a newly released biopic about British rock icon Elton John. The film follows the life of John (Taron Egerton of Kingsman fame) from his humble beginnings as an aspiring musician to his crazy life as a rock star. Although I haven’t heard all of Elton John’s music, the positive word-of-mouth surrounding Rocketman perked my interest and, while the movie isn’t perfect, it’s still a fun time for fans and non-fans alike.
One of my favorite aspects of Rocketman that I’m sure many people will agree with are the fantastical elements on display. Director Dexter Fletcher, who helped finish last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody, tries to separate this from other music biopics by making it a literal musical. These numbers are extremely colorful, incredibly well directed, and often feature excellent choreography. In fact, the first of these sequences, which is set to “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting),” feature few cuts and moves seamlessly. Fletcher injects fun and energy into these scenes while also separating their visual aesthetics from more conventional films within the sub-genre.
Another reason why Rocketman succeeds is because of its amazing cast, specifically Taron Egerton, who absolutely steals the show as Elton John. Egerton captures the spirit and personality of Elton so well that his performance rises above a simple impersonation. The fact that he, along with the rest of the cast, actually sing Elton’s songs rather than sub archived audio over their lips, adds to the performance’s authenticity. I can easily see Egerton receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Lead Actor in Rocketman and possibly even a win.
The film showcases the pivotal relationships that John had throughout his life with his best friend / songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), as well as with his manager/lover John Reid (Richard Madden). Egerton’s chemistry with both actors is great, especially with Bell, who feels believable as the brother John never had. One relationship that could have used more development, however, is John’s relationship with his mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard), although their story receives an strong payoff. Regardless, everyone in the film gives a great performance, even Howard, who effectively manages to pull off a British accent.
Some of Rocketman’s shortcomings is how the script still follows your typical musical biopic story beats. The movie shows Elton’s rise to fame as a musician through a quick montage, then spends plenty of time on his struggle with addiction. Anyone who has seen several music biopic may foresee these plot points and feel that the film becomes predictable as a result.
Fortunately, Rocketman‘s fantastical presentation makes up for its generic plot and screenwriter Lee Hall, who wrote Billy Elliott and its musical counterpart, attempts to elaborate on the causes behind John’s personal issues rather than pass them off as symptoms of rockstar life. The film presumably takes artistic liberties with the actual life story of Elton John but that’s fine since the movie is presented as a fantasy of sorts. The movie also tells it story in an interesting way, which of course I will not spoil. In contrast with Bohemian Rhapsody, I applaud Rocketman for explicitly showcasing John’s known homosexuality, as it is an integral part of his story and personality.
Rocketman succeeds where most music biopics tend to fail. It makes up for a conventional plot with beautiful direction and an amazing lead performance from Taron Egerton. Everyone should see this film and Booksmart in honor of Pride Month.