As an admirer of Elton John’s work for some time now, I felt it surprising that I really didn’t know all that much about his rise to fame and the struggles he took on during this time. In all honesty I didn’t realise Elton John didn’t write his own lyrics either, especially given how personal some of his music is. That being said, after the tedious Bohemian Rhapsody, my initial thoughts on Rocketman were nowhere near in the right place.
Transient, drug fuelled scenes are commonplace throughout, so much so that Rocketman takes scene transitions, camera angles and influence from that of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The tilted cameras, the breaks from reality and everything commonplace in the wild ride Dr. Gonzo and Raoul Duke careered through in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is more or less replicated in that of Elton John’s life. His first performance at the Troubadour sees the crowd and Elton floating into the air in the rising allegro of the song is a key example of this. Reality breaking, yes. Enjoyable too, but it serves the purpose of showcasing Elton’s live performances were truly larger than anything that could be realistically portrayed.
Speaking of portrayals, Taron Egerton stars as The Rocket Man himself in a truly fitting casting choice that showcases the strengths Egerton has as both an actor and singer. His renditions of Elton John classics like I’m Still Standing, Crocodile Rock and Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting are superb. The way in which the music is incorporated into the structure of the plot makes it feel like a light copy of Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, just the major change being a biographical structure.
As expected though, the supporting performers pale in comparison to the impeccable standard set by Egerton, with nobody really stepping up to the plate in regard to giving away anything better. They’re all serviceable in supporting a sure-fire award clinching leading role. It’s always nice to see Jamie Bell cropping up in more pieces of film, with his work in Filth and Snowpiercer being notable examples of his excellent work so far. He portrays Bernie Taupin as well as you would expect, and given that I knew little of Taupin’s involvement with Elton John until after this film somewhat shows its competency in giving the straight facts.
With director Dexter Fletcher never fearing to get experimental, it’s the first time one of his movies (or compilations in the case of Bohemian Rhapsody) has impressed me. His shot choreography and general abilities in crafting biopics is solid enough. He tried with Eddie the Eagle; another Egerton led biopic starring a plucky, strange looking Brit destined for stardom. It’s a nice niche that the two have worked very hard to mould, and it’s nice to see it pay off with Rocketman.
For those that aren’t a fan of John’s music, then don’t bother with this one. But for those looking to invest a little of their time into what turned out to be one of the most interesting superstar backstories, then Rocketman is the film for you. Cut perfectly, blending the genius of John and Taupin’s music with expectedly compelling and thoroughly enjoyable performances, it’d be hard not to recommend this finely tuned biopic.