Rocketman – Film Review
Cast: Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, Jamie Bell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Stephen Graham
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Synopsis: A look at the life of musical icon Elton John from his first moments playing the piano as a youngster, to an international best selling superstar, and all the partying and drunken shenanigans that ensued…
Review: When two films about two icons of British music come out within a year of each other, comparisons between these two films are pretty much inevitable, especially since they share a director (kind of). However, while the first of these films ultimately chose to play things very safe with its source material about the life of its subject, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. For Rocketman, and the life of its subject, Elton Hercules John, this is decidedly not the case.
The film covers quite the broad spectrum, but it mainly initially on Elton’s younger years, back when he was known as Reginald Kenneth Dwight. As a rather timid child being held back by his not-so-supporting parents. Until when given some helpful supporting nudges, he gets a spot at a prestigious music school and that leads him down the path of becoming a very eccentric entertainer. From there he meets lyricist Bernie Taupin (Bell) and together with Bernie providing the lyrics and Elton providing the vocals, they become an effective and cohesive team committed on the journey to super-stardom.
Every so often, there is a casting choice that just feels absolutely perfect, and for Taron Egerton as Elton John, this is one of those instances. In what may be his best performance of his career so far, Egerton goes all out with just about every aspect of the role. The bright and wacky costumes, the mannerisms of the great man himself and, yes he does all of his own singing. With just about every facet of this performance, he captures the drama that he has in his life with his romances and the hard and intense party lifestyle that he leads in his younger years, without sugar-coating any of it, not least the relationships he has, most notably with Richard Madden’s John Reid. The friendship between Elton and Bernie is very heartfelt, and Bell brings a level of sincerity to his performance, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mum Sheila couldn’t have been more perfect.
Dexter Fletcher, who came into to complete Bohemian Rhapsody after the original director was fired, shows that he has got a real knack for these musical biopics. While he didn’t get the credit for BoRhap, this is completely his own movie, and with that he brings a great deal of visual flair to the film. There’s no jaw-dropping sequence like the Live Aid scene in BoRhap, but that doesn’t stop the musical numbers in Rocketman are entertaining and very unique in their own right. With the script from Lee Hall, Fletcher chooses to mesh the intense drama with some musical numbers that are interspersed throughout the film. Given that the life of someone in a business like this has its ups and downs, these can feel a little jarring at first, given how the film has moments in it which are really quite melancholic.
The film strives to avoid those familiar tropes of the musical biopic genre, but despite its best efforts, it does revert to some of these. Yet while Bohemian Rhapsody was a very safe, and (sometimes inaccurate) version of the man it was portraying, Rocketman is anything but by-the-numbers. There are some aspects of Elton’s life that are covered, but in such a fleeting manner that could have done with a bit more development. It’s above all else, a reminder that while such a career can be extremely rewarding, there are some dangerous pitfalls that can happen to anyone, no matter how rich, or famous, or popular they may be.
Visually striking and with a marvellous performance from Egerton, Rocketman blasts off but doesn’t quite stick the landing due to a tonally unevenly told story.