Rocketman is a musical biopic directed by Dexter Fletcher and it follows the life of musical legend Sir Elton John (Taron Egerton) in a story of fame, fortune, despair, depravity, and remission. Hot off the tail from Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) – this musical biopic aims to tell an authentic perspective with none other than Sir Elton John himself approving of the final product almost every step of the way.
Almost nothing can be said first without mentioning Taron Egerton in this role. Egerton doesn’t just embody Elton John, he is Elton John – perhaps providing one of the most powerful and faithful singing voices in film this decade, one that can only be challenged by Lady Gaga in A Star is Born (2018). Beyond this deeply accurate rendition of Sir Elton John’s voice; Egerton displays a stunning range of emotion in his performance – from being a drunken and drugged up sex-fiend to a rattled and broken addict – you get to see the very dirt under Elton’s fingernails through this enrapturing performance by Egerton.
Egerton is perhaps the only big name actor working today that could have achieved all of these feats, I have no doubt this is a career defining moment for this young actor, one that will pave a way for many future successes for him. Another performance worthy of a mention is Richard Madden as Elton’s manager. Madden has proven himself to be an actor of outstanding caliber and dedication — his role in Rocketman confirms this. He provides a suave and convincing performance that most certainly made me raise my eyebrows more than once.
So, what makes Rocketman such a success? Well, to me, it’s that it simply doesn’t pull its punches like other musical biopics. We are given a birds-eye view into the life of a man that has experienced just as many failures as he has triumphs, and we see these failures in full view. This dedication to honest storytelling takes viewers to some uncomfortable places, showing us just how R-rated and unruly the life of a glamorous music legend can be. Are some components dramatized? To some degree, yes. But the creativity involved more than makes up for whatever over-dramatization writer Lee Hall added. What this film was able to achieve and convey through its use of musical sequences rivals what novelists can do in books with inner-dialogue.
This is first and foremost more of a musical than it is a biopic, director Dexter Fletcher has found a formula that just works. Who would have thought a biopic about a singer would work well as a musical? How has nobody thought of this? As a musical that means there’s a lot of songs, and I mean A LOT of songs. These songs aren’t all done in the same way though; they are split into two types: Musical style and on-stage performance style. Simply, you get a constant switch-up between Elton performing on-stage and then him performing a musical ballad by himself – this variety helps alleviate the frequency of the endless music given.
Cinematographer George Richmond doesn’t skimp on creating a spectacle to showcase Elton John’s greatest hits, however, the spectacle is equally fun as it is tiring. This film aims to capture its audience through its senses, however, it is struggling to do much visually as the cinematography is an area that is wasting potential. The musical sequences are choreographed well and the lighting is utilised well in its concert sequences which is the only point where the movie tries to be creative with its cinematography. This leaves the rest of film – the dramatic and grounded moments – quite dull. When the film is pumped with energy is when Dexter Fletcher is injecting a lot of style through his film making, making it such a joy to watch.
When it comes to showcasing the life of Elton John, it is essential that the costumes are being employed appropriately to match the persona of the iconic musician. Rocketman absolutely nails this aspect by subtly displaying the natural progression of Elton John’s fashion as it slowly becomes more extravagant and outrageous, combined with intricate production quality. For me, the film falls victim to letting the spectacle overbear its dramatic moments as the film covers 20 Elton John songs which becomes tiresome as the rapid pace of songs hit one too many times. The songs are used excellently as they are built around key moments of Elton’s life, which tell you his story. Supporting this is Taron Egerton’s karaoke performance, unlike another recent musical biopic, it is enabling the authenticity of the film to feel real and raw.
Rocketman shows you the dirty face behind the pitch-perfect voice; director Dexter Fletcher has managed to show all the right angles of Elton John’s life to fully satiate audiences curiosity. What more could be asked for from this film? It’s almost as good as it possibly can be without stretching too many truths. Blasting off with bombastic flare and a performance to match; Rocketman launches audiences into the wild and vibrant life of a music legend; unfiltered.