“Rocketman”- Movie Review

Biopics tend to follow a standard formula: we open with a simple or not-so-great childhood, during our protagonist discovers their talent for {insert area of prodigal expertise here}. Fast forward a couple of years and their big break finally comes. Their newfound fame, while welcomed, comes with a few downsides, including scumbag producers and/or managers and a harsh descent into drugs and alcohol dependence. Then their journey ultimately concludes with either a sobering comeback or a tragic final note. Over the years, these beats have become somewhat of a backbone for most, if not all, biopics. When used to death, they can easily come off as tiresome, bland and too run-of-the-mill.

Rocketman follows the basic formaula to a tee, but what saves it from being an ordinary biopic is its unique approach to the story. The film explores the life of Elton John (Taron Edgerton) from his beginnings as a budding musical prodigy in 1950s England to the costumed-studded pianist we know him as today. It highlights several avenues of Elton’s life- such as his relationship with songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), his complicated rapport with his parents, coming to terms with his sexuality, his drug, sex and alcohol addictions- and does so through a fantastical lens.

Since the film’s release, many people have drawn comparisons between it and last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s hard not to, given the similarities. Both biopics aimed to tell the stories of larger-than-life LGBTQ performers and pay tribute to their music. The difference is that while Bohemian Rhapsody takes a safe surface-skimming approach, Rocketman is more celebratory, and unapologetic about its subject matter.

Dexter Fletcher directs the hell out of this movie. The musical numbers are beautifully choreographed and performed with such impassioned energy. The fantasy element opens the door to a lot of creative opportunities, and Fletcher takes advantage of it. No two sequences are too similar to one another. Each number serves a distinct purpose, whether it’s to convey the passage of time, to enhance the concert experience, or to artistically reflect the emotion moments. The style compliments the story so well that it makes the familiar biopic tropes feel new.  

Taron Edgerton delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as the titular Elton John. He does is own singing in the film, and it’s refreshing to see a musical film where the lead can actually sing and isn’t autotuned. He excellently captures Elton John’s eccentric onstage persona while also conveying the deep-rooted sense of loneliness that had carried through much of his life. Jamie Bell is great as well, and the friendship between Taupin and John is one of the film’s highlights. Other performances worth mentioning are that of Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother, and Richard Madden as his manager/lover.

The only major flaw I can pinpoint has to do with the pacing. By I don’t necessarily mean the length of the movie. It clocks in at about a solid two hours, and for the first two acts, the film flies by. The third act is where you start to feel the length a bit, and I think it’s partially due to the fact that it’s so jam-packed with songs that it gets a little exhausting. At the same time, when it reaches the final song, that feeling melts away and I was left wanting more. So the issue is more of a nitpick, really.

In the end, Rocketman is an absolute blast from start to finish. Everything shines in this movie- the acting, the musical numbers, the stylistic direction. Nothing about it is generic or half-baked, and the film never shies away from darker aspects of Elton’s life. Even if you aren’t a huge Elton John fan, there’s more than enough to love.

Cosmic Grade: 4.8/5 Stars





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