“You gotta kill the person you were born to be to become the person you want.” In Rocketman (2019), we follow the colorful transformation of shy kid Reggie Dwight to the legend we now know as Sir Elton John.
The Beardict: As a full-on musical biopic, Rocketman takes off with the right combination of substance and flamboyance. The film allows us to know both the artist and the man–how Elton Hercules John had humble beginnings, rose through the ranks, broke records, and reached the top, all the while managing his tumultuous personal life. It is a beautiful explosion of music that reminds us why we listen to songs in the first place. If you were not an Elton John fan before, you would be now!
Despite its movie title, Rocketman is not all lift off as we take a tour through the ups and downs in Elton’s life. Because of this, our moods bounce from I’M THE BEST to LIFE SUCKS. The movie presents us with so much relatable content. Elton realizes the hard way that being a genius in one thing doesn’t mean you’ll be a genius in everything. Making music is hard, but liking/being yourself is much, much harder. His belief in ‘killing’ Reggie Dwight made him lose control and float this always-happy persona (That scene in front of the mirror where he forces himself to smile is really tragic). His story inspires us to strive for greatness, but also serves as a cautionary tale about what comes with it (feeling empty, people taking advantage of you, etc.).
Taron Egerton’s performance as Elton John is simply inspired. There were moments during the film that seemed like Taron was a man possessed, but in a very good way. Who knew he could sing and dance with such gusto? By showing his range, he is successfully veering away from just being called that guy from Kingsman.
Another thing Rocketman does well is introduce Elton John to a younger generation. Most millennials know him for either Lion King (Can You Feel The Love Tonight) or Princess Diana (Candle In The Wind), but obviously, he has so much more to offer. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that he’s had so many hits throughout the decades, and we’re pretty sure that the film’s release is going to result in a spike of Spotify listeners.
When a film has a lot of material as basis, it tends to just copy what has been done before. Although Aladdin (2019) is without a doubt a magical remake of the well-loved Disney cartoon, you can sense that there were parts that they played it safe and followed the original too much (scene by scene, line by line). In the case of Rocketman, instead of having the character of Elton perform in front of concerts all the time, they used his songs to define certain periods of his life, from childhood to his rise to fame to his midlife crisis. Instead of a voiceover, we get to know Elton’s thoughts through the lyrics. They also assigned singing parts to other cast members, completing the musical feel of the biopic, without it looking like it was forced (La La Land, we’re looking at you!). In terms of direction, Dexter Fletcher obviously knew what he was doing, and the topnotch costume and production design really helped Rocketman soar.
It’s hard not to compare Rocketman to Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). After all, they are both about the journey of music icons. However, there are other details that tie the two films. For example, is the name John Reid (Richard Madden), Elton’s long-time manager/lover, familiar to you? That’s because he was also Queen’s manager. (Trivia: In Bohemian, he is played by Aidan Gillen, another Game of Thrones alum). Director Dexter Fletcher was also the one who finished directing Bohemian after Bryan Singer’s abrupt departure from the project. What’s actually distinct about Rocketman is its focus on Elton as a gay man in a harsh world. A lot of his music are based on his experiences with the people around him – his parents, his friends, and his romantic partners – and how they reacted to him baring it all for the world to see. One more thing: Congratulations to Taron and the rest of the cast as well for not lip syncing any of the songs (their real voices were used)!
Rocketman is great, yes. It’s weird, and we totally love it. However, we recognize that it may not be for everyone. Aside from the fact that Elton’s sexuality is central to the development of the story (something that may not sit well with more traditional moviegoers), you also have to like musicals, or at least be open to it. If you can’t stand characters expressing their feelings through song, then you should consider watching something else.
Overall, we think Rocketman is a powerful and honest take on how it must feel like to be a rockstar like Elton John—how he’s achieved so much more than an average human being ever would, but how in the end, he’s just like you and me: passionate but flawed, a Rocketman whose thrusters burn out from time to time but still manages to move forward. We can’t wait until it gets a Broadway version!
Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures. Rocketman out now in cinemas near you!