A true story based on the life of musician Elton John and directed by Dexter Fletcher, Rocketman is a fantasy musical that follows John (Taron Egerton)’s early days as a prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music to his musical partnership with Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). The inspirational story, set to Elton John’s most beloved songs, shows the transformation of a shy piano prodigy with unloving parents (Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh) to an international superstar – including all of the drugs, drink, sex, and pressuring manager (Richard Madden).
Now this is how to do a biopic. It’s no wonder that Elton John had such an emotional reaction to watching the film for the first time, because I felt that pride for him. From the glamorous costumes to the group choreographies, to the musical performances and the quieter moments of emotional drama, Rocketman hits every note perfectly.
There’s definitely an element of fantasy to it and the story reshuffles time somewhat, using Elton’s hits to tell a story rather than to tell a linear account of his discography, but it does this brilliantly. The performance of ‘I Want Love’, especially, is a standout moment in the film, bringing the characters together, using the lyrics to show their emotions, and tugging on your heartstrings with every note.
The film captures the darker moments of Elton’s life really well, although I do think that it misses out on some of his happier times and more prima donna moments. Nevertheless, it’s always interesting to see behind the scenes of a character like Elton John, and it’s so distressing that this how so many musicians from this era were living their lives off stage.
Because of the two sides of Elton that we get to see, Rocketman is hugely entertaining and cheerful (and had me singing along all the way through) but also deeply emotional at times. A lot of this range in emotions is down to Taron Egerton‘s phenomenal performance. Not only does he look and sound like Elton, but his voice and renditions of Elton’s hits are incredible.
Whilst this film is undeniably all about Egerton, the younger Elton’s – Matthew Illesley and Kit Connor – also deserve a huge applause as they open the film up exceptionally well, as do the rest of the cast including Jamie Bell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones and Steven Mackintosh.
And as much as I love that fact that Richard Madden was cast in this film – as a lover of Egerton’s character to make it even better – it does disappoint me how dissimilar Madden is to the real-life man (John Reid). I feel like the film definitely over-sexualises him, but then having Madden and Egerton cast in this was always going to be a huge part of the film’s appeal, and they have done some amazing promotion for the film’s release together. I also wanted to see more romance between the two. Their true-life story seems to be different from the short one we are told, but then I suppose they wanted the film to focus on Elton and only show Reid’s nasty side.
Although I was a huge fan of last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody and stand by the brilliant performances despite the controversies around the film itself, Rocketman definitely puts much of it to shame. For me, a biopic needs to be about the music, and Egerton is able to not only act, dance, and perform, but the quality of his voice is such a huge reason for this film’s inevitable success.
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