Review by J.T. Johnson
Taron Egerton does an absolutely smashing job bringing the larger-than-life story of Elton John to the big screen. The movie is directed by Dexter Fletcher, the same man that was brought onboard to complete “Bohemian Rhapsody” after Brian Singer was fired from that project last year. Unlike most biopics, though, this film does something truly special.
First, let me ask you if you’ve heard this one before. There is a young boy who is a musical prodigy and wants to eventually create rock and roll music and be a superstar. Unfortunately, success and fame bring all of the pitfalls such as drugs and alcohol. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Sure, John’s life seems like a dozen other musicians that have also had their own biopics. The difference here, though, is that John’s life is not going to simply hit the main points before revealing what happened to everyone after the events of the movie. Instead, we get a large and flashy musical where our characters go through their troubles with the help of some of Elton John’s biggest hits.
We actually start in a very down to earth place with Elton showing up in a group session while he was in rehab. When he shows up, he’s dressed in one of his many outlandish costumes that he performed in during the era of glam rock that produced many of his wildest concerts and hit albums. As the movie progresses, though, and we get to learn about the man behind the music, the costume starts to slowly come off until it is stripped down to the man underneath.
Sure, Elton had a father who didn’t love him and a cold hearted mother that tortured him for years with her own lack of compassion. He also had the ruthless manager who claims to love him but really just wants to bank off his success. He also has the drugs and the alcohol that he falls back on, but this film is ultimately not about any of that.
It’s about a man who is trying to discover the source of his pain that is told through amazing and often times catchy music. It’s about the man who is trying to accept the man he is rather than the man everyone else wanted him to be. In a big way, “Rocketman” is about a man trying to forgive himself more than anything or anyone else.
This year, Rami Malek won the award for Best Actor for playing Freddie Mercury. If Egerton doesn’t at least get nominated for his performance here next year, then it will be a huge injustice in the entertainment industry. It also helps that Egerton is actually singing his songs and it is amazing watching Egerton transform from the depressing man behind the scenes to the ultimate showman when he finally hits the stage.
Thankfully, Egerton doesn’t have to do it alone. Instead of just having Elton sing the songs, the entire cast will break out into song and dance when it is appropriate with very well choreographed dance numbers made to highlight certain points in Elton’s life. Whether it is Jamie Bell as Elton’s longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin or Bryce Dallas Howard as the heartless mother Sheila, this cast completely shines.
What I liked about this movie the most is that it didn’t feel like we were just going through the motions or plodding through certain years of the artist’s life. We also didn’t get those insanely clichéd moments where the artist is suddenly and unrealistically inspired to come up with a song because he saw something on the side of the road or something else just as idiotic. Instead, we feel that we are constantly in John’s head and seeing the world through his eyes. That’s why it makes sense that the story is told as a musical first and a biopic second.
My big fear for this film was that it would be another generic biopic that raised the profile of its subject. Instead, we saw the tortured artist behind the showmanship and it didn’t shy away from his own dark demons. Thankfully, what I ended up getting was one of the best biopics ever produced and highly recommend it for any fans of Elton John and the music he created.