Review: ROCKETMAN (2019) – Unique Depiction Of Real Events Bolstered By Strong Performances
My Rocketman review comes with a disclaimer. I knew absolutely nothing about Elton John going into this movie. The musician or the man. Of course, I’d heard of him as an iconic musical personality. But I’m not that familiar with his body of work, except maybe Tiny Dancer. But despite all of it, I absolutely adored Rocketman.
Rocketman is about on the life of a musical icon, Elton John. You could say that the movie is a typical biographical film about a man who contributed immensely to the landscape of the music industry today. But describing Rocketman as simply a biopic would be a disservice. Because it’s so much more.
Rocketman is much more than your average biopic.
At its heart, Rocketman is a musical. It’s a movie that plots the course of one man’s journey to use his God-given talent to make something of his life. While at the same time, discover who he is and, most importantly, what he wants from that life. It’s incredibly relatable to its core and is immensely surprising.
Let’s get this train back not he track though. Rocketman is about a young boy growing up in London. Unloved and neglected by his parents, the boy discovers a talent; playing the piano. As he gets older, his talent blossoms into a passion, through which he gets attention. After being in a band, then meeting a frequent collaborator and future life long friend, this boy’s life takes off, and the stereotypical rockstar life of drugs, sex and rock and roll ensues. It’s not an uncommon story. But it’s definitely an uncommon movie.
The fantastical depictions of the real life events is what sets this apart from just another musical.
The boy is obviously Elton John. Although you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference the way that actor Taron Egerton plays the man. Egerton is fearless and uncanny as the icon in ways that shocked, surprised and elated me. Something that is true of the entire Rocketman cast.
Rocketman’s narrative structure isn’t unique either. The entire movie plays as a flashback when John (Egerton) checks himself into rehab and recounts to his fellow addicts what led him there. It’s a trope we’ve seen before.
But where Rocketman stands out, is in its heart. Writers Lee Hall and director Dexter Fletcher aren’t afraid to take their time telling the story of his innocent boy who becomes misguided as he gets older. The movie feels less like a biopic about a real-life personality, but more of a fully rounded story about fictional characters, developed in a room by a man with a computer.
Rocketman is a whole story, inside and out, and it feels like it.
Many biopics often feel like the story is reliant on pre-existing knowledge about the main character. Certain events and parts in the story skip forward in time for the sake of runtime limitations, and an expectation that everyone knows the true story anyways. Whereas Fletcher treats the story about the life of Rocketman’s Elton John, as being completely accessible to people who have no idea who the man is.
There’s is also the matter of cleaning up a biopic, so as to not offend the subject, his family or his possibly litigious estate. But in Rocketman, the character’s insecurities, motivations, flaws, and talents are all exposed to the audience. Thereby allowing them to revel in the payoff when the character discovers those things about himself through the course of the movie. One line in the third act completely destroys me. And this is all done with the blessing of the real-life Elton John himself.
Rocketman’s surprisingly raw & flawed depiction of its leading man is refreshing.
Even when compared to another movie about an iconic artist that came before Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody, the former works so much better. Coincidentally, Rhapsody was a movie that Fletcher had to step in to complete when original director Bryan Singer was unceremoniously fired during production. Given the full reign of a movie, like Rocketman, Fletcher did something impressive.
Even Rocketman’s cast was incredibly impressive. Everyone from Richard Madden as the jerky manager who was John’s first love, to Jamie Bell as that lifelong collaborator and best friend of John’s. Bryce Dallas Howard is pitch-perfect as a mother who is indifferent and unloving towards her gay son.
I knew none of the songs in the Rocketman soundtrack before the movie. I couldn’t sing along to any of these tunes. But that didn’t matter. The songs in Rocketman work because of the story that it’s telling; the character moments become enhanced and given insight into, the songs themselves. Not nostalgic elements for the audience to recognize and cheer along with their favorite classic song. Rocketman’s lyrics of each song fit the moments and gives them so much more impact.
The Rocketman Trailer
Despite the most recent Rocketman Oscar snub, the movie is surprisingly brilliant. Egerton is shockingly good. I’ve rarely seen a biopic, where the subject of the film is not only alive but very much involved in the making of the movie, which portrays itself so nakedly. It’s a testament to the character, and to the growth of Elton John himself that Rocketman tells his story in such a raw state.
I recommend Rocketman to audiences that are fans of musicals, emotional journeys, and movies about real-life people. It’s one of the best movies of the year, and deservingly so.
What did you think of Rocketman? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @theshahshahid.