Article By: Alice-Ginevra Micheli
It’s a story that’s been told many times before: the rock ‘n’ roll god who loses himself to his most debased senses. What’s different in Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman is that even in the lowest of the low moments, stunning visuals provide a warmth to the film and a sense of hope for Elton John’s character, and we never stop rooting for him.
Released only a few months after Fletcher’s last rock biography, there didn’t seem to be overwhelming excitement for Rocketman. Everything about it seemed fine, akin to an experience that would satiate the tastes of the fans, and be pleasant viewing for everyone else. What was delivered however, ended up on another level, soaring high above those tempered expectations.
Depicting Elton John’s journey into rock-stardom, this is a biopic with a twist. Rather than just telling the tale in a linear, roundabout way, the film takes his story and makes it into a fantastical musical, with each song becoming their own magnificent feast.
That’s where the crux of its magic lies, in eccentricity that plays perfectly off the icon that is Elton John. It’s not limited by realism, or traditional story arcs, instead investing itself in delivering pure spectacle. In fact, it tells the story as you would through a song, exciting, rhythmic… intricately simple.
Were the plot to be read on paper, it wouldn’t seem like anything new or that stimulating. However, the difference lies in its execution. There is the promise of stardom bursting from every frame, with dynamic color and scintillating energy to keep the audience riled. This is matched only by the small moments of quiet that translate the truth at the protagonists’ core: a man who just wants to be loved.
This power is only accentuated through Taron Egerton’s star-making performance as Elton John. Previously known for action heavy roles such as Kingsman and the most recent Robin Hood, he had to shed more than typecasting to succeed here. Demanding perfection in all areas: dramatic, physical and musical, it would have been easy to turn in a satisfactory act and call it a day. What is delivered, however, is such captivating acting, no doubt worthy of an Oscar nomination.
Each of the supporting cast members also play their parts effortlessly. From Richard Madden’s handsome, but slimy music manager to Bryce Dallas Howard’s unforgiving matriarch, they each give a pop of color resulting in a vibrant conclusion.
Another actor to point out here would be Jamie Bell as Elton John’s best friend and collaborator of 50 years, Bernie Taupin. He’s quiet, reserved, and the complete opposite of Egerton’s Elton, which allows him to represent the heart of his whole story.
It could be argued that among the color and metaphorical fireworks of the film, there is some storytelling lost in the song in-betweens. Possibly, Fletcher was trying to disguise moments of true horror with gaudy musical numbers, but ultimately may have ended up skipping over some character development as well. Through this lens, it’s possible to feel like something was missing, and possibly lose interest in the magic that is Rocketman. But here, it’s that magic and the flash that counts most. As many know, whether in a suit of multi-colored feathers, or dressed up as the Queen of England, Elton John has always been a master of show, and so it would seem wrong if a film about his life didn’t follow this same mantra.
It’s important to remember that this is truly a film about John, with all the bells and whistles included. It doesn’t sugarcoat the dark moments of his younger life, as could be said with last years’ Bohemian Rhapsody, though it doesn’t dwell on them either. Of course, a music biopic would normally be best suited to fans of the respective musician, but this one breaks that mold. John’s songs have become so iconic that it would be impossible not to recognize most present in the film, but it’s the heart of this story that most anyone could relate to — the search for love. And though the film may get a bit lost at times during those drug-addled, erogenous moments, it always makes its way back to the music and to the fantasy, entertaining its audience the whole way through.
MG Rating: 9/10