As I alluded to in a recent post there is a plethora of music homage movies set for release in 2019, Rocketman is one such feature which centers on the musical-life of Elton John. This review does contain spoilers so if you intend on seeing this movie then I would be reluctant to read further because knowing as little as possible about Rocketman’s unique modus operandi would in my estimation pay the audience member inestimable entertainment dividends.
I went into this movie with trepidation because as I mentioned in my previous post from having gleaned the trailer I didn’t see Elton John in Taron Egerton. However, part way into Rocketman I was relieved to find myself fully immersed in Egerton’s portrayal of Elton. I remarked to my partner in one of the movies highlights (and there is a swathe of them) how it was though I was watching Elton John in person, when Egerton as Elton Elton uncannily finds the musical essence of Bernie Taupín’s lyrics in arguably Elton john’s greatest love song ‘Your Song’.
Edited: Since writing this post, movie clips from Rocketman have been released on you tube including the scene described above:
One of the criticisms I read about Rocketman was how it seemed to get too bogged down into Elton’s addictions, self-loathing, and over-indulging a victim-hood narrative. I won’t pretend it doesn’t delve deeply into Elton’s negative excesses, however what sets Rocketman apart from a over-sentimental and forbearing daytime drama, is each time our Elton hits rock bottom, his music pulls us (the audience) out of it in most unexpected and often peculiarly humorous ways. It doesn’t encroach the abyss where the dark is too cumbersome we are unable to forge our way out of it. That is what I think is Rocketman’s shining achievement.
The other aspect of Rocketman which I wasn’t expecting at all, is that it is essentially a ‘musical-odyssey’. Rocketman isn’t a by the numbers – drama scene followed by drama scene leading to a climax concert package rather it flies in the face of conventional music-bio films. The principle cast members contribute to the musicality of John’s timeless classics and most scenes transform into extremely originally and well-choreographed mini-musical productions. It doesn’t try to replicate Elton or his music, rather it becomes its own fantastical beast as it were and something that stands up on its own two feet.
Rocketman isn’t without its flaws and there are moments which I felt were slow-going, but I think Taron Egerton did a tremendous job inhabiting Elton. While his voice doesn’t ascend to the richness of the real Elton, his singing and dancing talents are showcased wonderfully. His brotherly relationship with Bernie Taupin is gorgeously woven into the story. You get a real sense of how extraordinary their chemistry and love for one another must have been. The depiction of the various epochs were expertly detailed and rendered to give the viewer a sense they were watching actual musical-history in the making. While there are too many grandiose scenes to describe here, one that particularly stood out for me is where Elton ‘in recovery’ makes amends with his younger Reginald Dwight self and family and friends. It is truly transformational and captivating viewing.
There is no doubt that Elton John himself had his hands all over this movie, but rather than seeing it as a negative I like to think that his flair and flamboyance were somehow inculcated into its making which a movie like this so desperately needs stamped into it. Any contemporary musical enthusiast should make Rocketman a must-see movie, in the cinema particularly where the richness of the sound, production and cinematography can be fully immersed.