“Rocketman” lands among the stars.
Aside from the fact that he’s a prolific musician, my knowledge about Elton John is pretty minimal. Growing up, I mainly knew him as the guy who wrote the music for The Lion King (1994). Which, hello, is a phenomenal thing to be known for. As I went into the theatre to see the new biopic about John’s life, Rocketman (2019), I expected to hear a collection of familiar tunes and learn a few previously unknown facts about the guy who wrote the music for The Lion King. That’s usually what these musical biopics boil down to. What I wasn’t expecting was one of the most unique portrayals of a real-life figure that I’ve ever seen in a movie. John is now so much more to me than just the guy who wrote “Hakuna Matata.”
Based on true events, Rocketman tells the real-life story of singer / songwriter Elton John. The movie follows John’s early upbringing in England to becoming a global superstar and one of the biggest names in rock and roll. As his fame skyrockets, so does John’s addiction to drugs and alcohol.
I was surprised to discover that Rocketman is directed by Dexter Fletcher, the man who took over directing responsibility of Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) after Bryan Singer was fired from the project. By the way, you can check out my review for Bohemian Rhapsody here. Bohemian Rhapsody was a fine movie but I felt like it was missing a certain level of theatricality and flair. Which, when you’re depicting the life of Freddie Mercury, is a mandatory element. The same goes for a showman like John. As it turns out, John is a producer on Rocketman, which I’m assuming is so that he could ensure every detail of his eclectic past was factual. Having John as a producer also helped give Rocketman the sense of flair the story deserves, with the movie truly telling his story through the songs. Really, this was the movie that I desperately wanted Bohemian Rhapsody to be.
What makes Rocketman so unique is that it’s a biopic that feels like a professional stage production. Instead of simply performing John’s songs on stages and in recording booths, the movie puts on full-blown musical numbers. The numbers are a delight to watch as they walk the line between putting on fabulous showstoppers and then scaling it back to create some beautifully intimate moments. It’s a fun and infectious way to tell the story of the singer’s life that will have you itching to download “The Best of Elton John” as soon as you get home.
Though it certainly shows the trying times in the rock star’s illustrious career, Rocketman makes sure not to let those darker aspects monopolize the movie. I find that more often than not biopics get bogged down by trying to capitalize on being overly serious or dramatic. Rocketman ensures that the the good times and sense of fun in John’s career are never sacrificed, delivering a well-rounded and engaging portrayal of one of music’s most acclaimed songwriters.
Speaking of acclaim, Taron Egerton is fantastic. Egerton truly transforms into Elton John. It’s a performance that is so believable and magnetic, that it erases all of Egerton’s previous roles from memory. Egerton plays to the duality of John’s life that the movie presents so well, ensuring that one minute you’re laughing with him and the next you’re crying. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be nominated for an Oscar for this performance. How could he not be? The Academy loves this type of movie / role! I swear, this will start off a trend of Dexter Fletcher directing musical biopics and actors clamouring to partner with him to nab an Oscar. Come on Amy Adams: Play Reba and get that Oscar!
Did you know that Elton John originally wanted Justin Timberlake to play him? Yikes, I can’t even imagine how bad that would have been. Nothing against Justin Timberlake, but something tells me he wouldn’t get the fabulousness and camp involved in a project like this. You know who totally got the memo though? Bryce Dallas Howard. As John’s mother Sheila, Howard chews all the scenery. Deliciously cartoon-like, Howard delivers a performance that is never over the top, but the perfect amount of theatrical drama that the movie requires. Timberlake might be able to nail the singing but I’m doubtful he’d understand the camp like Howard and Egerton do. Though Egerton has no shortcomings in the musical department. He’s a real singer! He loses himself in a song and his technique (though I’m not an expert) is great. He really feels and lives a song. I’d definitely buy a Taron Egerton album.
I strongly recommend seeing Rocketman in theatres. Though at times it feels a bit like you’re on an acid trip, it’s a fantastic celebration of Elton John and his music that will have you dancing in your seat. From the performances, to the musical numbers, to the hilariously on point fashion, Rocketman is a musical biopic that hits all the right notes.
Are you an Elton John fan? Will you go see Rocketman?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!