Rocketman offers everything that we want in a well-crafted biopic musical of Sir Elton John from the show-stopping numbers to the costume changes.
The man that we know as Elton John (Taron Edgerton) was originally Reginald Dwight. He would eventually tour around the world as a rock star. This film shows that transformation albeit with somewhat of a fantasy aspect. Even for being fantasy, the film clearly has a heart. It’s grounded by way of a narrative that sees Elton John walking into rehab and telling his story. It’s a well-worn plot device with all the back and forth but it works so beautifully in the film as you’ll see. Once we finally catch up in time to where the film begins, it’s almost over.
If Elton had never responded to an advertisement for songwriters, he’d never have met lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) in 1967. Two years later, Empty Sky gets released and hit single “Your Song” would follow a year later. The rest as they say is history. We’re privy to a new song, “I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” written by John and Taupin.
While we all knew that director Dexter Fletcher had the ability to direct music-focused films, he goes above and beyond here. It’s simply unbelievable. I had no idea that the film would be a musical until the first song started up on screen. Fletcher’s direction of the film manages to get some inspired performances from stars Taron Edgerton and Jamie Bell. We’ll certainly be hearing Taron’s name at the end of the year during awards season. Bell gets his chance to shine while singing “Goodbye Yellowbrick Road.”
How is the music on screen? It’s awesome! Some songs are choreographed for dance numbers while others are basically Elton sitting at the piano. There’s never really a dull moment here but again, I can’t be surprised. After all, this is Elton John that we’re talking about! Once “The Bitch Is Back” starts up, we know that this isn’t a simple biopic. It’s more of a fantasy musical that draws upon biopic standards. “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” turns into a show-stopping tune as well as a reason to flash forward in time. At the end of the film, the film basically recreates the music video for “I’m Still Standing.”
Like any musician during the 1960s-1980s, Elton John did not live a PG-13 life. It would make zero sense for this film to hold back in favor of a family audience. It would have been totally unfair for the film to suffer because of a favorable rating. For this, we should all be grateful to Elton John for making sure he gets the film he deserves. It’s only right that we get a sex scene between John and manager John Reid (Richard Madden). Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t even half the film that Rocketman is! I know, I know. It’s not fair to compare the two! But Rocketman is the far superior film and we may never see another musical biopic like it ever again.
There’s not much here to nitpick. Time passes by in the film before we realize it. John’s marriage to Renate Blauel (Celinde Schoenmaker) lasted four years in real life but it’s just a blip in the map on screen. Though if there’s one gripe to make, it’s how he chooses his stage name. The film makes it appear as tribute to John Lennon but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Oh well. Everything else about the film is so beautiful so it’s a small complaint at best. Well, another complaint could be that some of his greatest hits barely get seconds. Others, not at all.
Rocketman may blur the lines between fantasy and reality but the likes of this musical won’t be seen for some time to come. It’s the best musical biopic since Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
DIRECTOR: Dexter Fletcher
SCREENWRITER: Lee Hall
CAST: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Gemma Jones, and Bryce Dallas Howard