Rocketman is the story of famed singer, Elton John, including his rise to success, his struggles with alcoholism, and his sexuality. The movie successfully conveys the typical trappings of a musical biopic, while also working around the genericness to deliver what is ultimately a very entertaining look at a confused individual. Unlike last year's big hit Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie doesn’t hold back, and is all the better for it. If Taron Edgerton isn’t nominated for an Oscar for his performance in this film, it would be a very big shame.
Unlike many musical biopics, Rocketman does one thing differently and extremely right. It is, in fact, a musical. So, instead of the actor lip syncing to the artist’s recordings, Taron is actually singing, for example, Crocodile Rock. Another interesting thing to note is that the movie allows other characters to shine, such as, Elton’s mother, and allows the other characters to join in singing the songs, as well. Of course, I’m sure there were plenty of creative licenses taken and it’s not supposed to be realistic, but that doesn’t take anything away from the musical numbers themselves.
The performances in the movie are varying degrees of splendid. Taron Edgerton physically embodies Elton John and shines as an over the top, eccentric, flamboyant person who loved extreme performance costumes. The movie is linked with scenes from an alcoholic treatment meeting, where in Elton, dressed-up looking a bit like the devil, recalls when everything in his life went wrong. The honesty and transparency in this film is refreshing as it comes right out and says, yeah, Elton John was a bit of an ass who used people for his own gains.
Elton’s relationship with his songwriting partner, Bernie Taupen (Jamie Bell), is naturally highlighted, as is his relationship with his mother, Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard, who does a solid British accent), who is ultimately disappointed in the direction her son has taken which causes a rift with his family. From a casting perspective, the eight year difference between Taron and Bryce was a bit obvious, especially given that they never tried to make her look older, as the film progressed.
The musical choreography and editing, some of the most important aspects of this film, is fantastic and fun. In one scene, for example, Elton is performing and flips the table in a freeze frame then moves right towards the crowd. In another scene, the opening musical number, Elton, as a child (Matthew Illesley), performs The Bitch is Back, describing his childhood in “merry ol’ London”. My particular favorite of these sorts of direction is when Elton John is performing Pinball Wizard, as his costume changes throughout the sequence, it’s seriously awesome. The work it must have taken to make these sequences as precise as possible was probably very hard, and the filmmakers should be applauded for getting it right.
Rocketman is still very much is a generic music biopic in nature, but it’s one that is elevated by its performances and its style. The strength of the film lies in its no-holds-barred portrayal of Elton John. The movie isn’t afraid to show him in a darker, different light, and that, combined with the music, creates an enjoyable experience. If you are a fan of Elton John, or a fan of musicals, in general, I highly recommend you check this film out.
Playing in Hanover at The Nugget Theater at Monday - Thursday 4:15, and 6:50 PM, Friday at 4:15, 6:50, and 9:30 PM, Saturday at 1:30, 4:15, 6:50, and 9:30 PM, and Sunday at 1:30, 4:15, and 6:50 PM