Elton John is one of the most prolific musicians of all time, and above all, is known for his extravagance. So it’s only right that Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman goes above and beyond the run-of-the-mill approach in favor of something bolder. Packed with visual flair and creativity that other biopics shy away from, Rocketman shines above and beyond most films of similar nature; not to mention the way it handles its subject matter is much more nuanced and effective in its terms of delivery. For Rocketman highlights the importance of confronting one’s demons, regardless of how enticing the world they preside in may seem from afar. With an incredibly deep performance from Taron Egerton, and paired with some of the best songs from John’s dense catalog, Rocketman shows all the darkness that consumed the early years of the legends life.
Admittedly, the film starts off rather slow, but what’s present is necessary for deeper context into John’s life. The first act essentially sets up the framing of the rest of the film, by diving into John’s childhood. It’s these moments that feel cliché, but come together quite nicely considering some of the best musical moments occur early on as well. It’s not until Egerton explodes on screen in a fantastical music sequence set at a carnival that the film feels as if it has truly begun. Egerton is simply a superstar in the lead role, with his singing coming across as deeply authentic throughout the film. Even in its dramatic moments where John tries faking a smile, the young actor transforms in a way that could easily pave the road to an Oscar nomination.
What makes this biopic more compelling than most is how it doesn’t seem to shy away from the truly upsetting elements of this type of lifestyle. Many films touch upon the shadiness of the music industry and troubled souls dealing with their various problems; yet Rocketman doesn’t go out of its way to highlight the more glamorous moments. From the get-go, John is shown to be in a downward spiral, and his constant attempts at dealing with his problems end poorly time and time again. It’s refreshing to witness, and even when the surreal moments of Rocketman come into play, it’s only to get out of the darkness; which seems to have been the case in reality with regards to John’s famous persona.
His extravagance was always rooted in masking his darkest moments, and Rocketman portrays this wonderfully. Through some perfect costume design, John’s wildest outfits come to life and show the appreciation from the filmmakers. There’s no shortage of wonderful homages to a career that has lasted for half a century. For example, the score is subtle, but regularly pulls notes from John’s most classic songs and repurposes them for transcendent moments in the film. For those hoping to see a biopic that feels passionate about the subject matter, Rocketman will be the best bet for you. If this film is anything, it’s ambitious and creative in a world that wouldn’t push for something of the sorts, but it’s a welcome change.
As stated, there are mediocre moments that feel very run-of-the-mill. It’s the typical biopic material that is difficult to avoid in the grand scheme of things. But luckily, this full-fledged fantasy musical has more than enough flair to make up for these slower bits. Each major music number is massively entertaining, and will surely put a smile on the face of every fan. From floating in a small venue to blasting off into space, Fletcher visually brings forth a different vibe with every passing song, and the catalog just gets deeper and deeper as the film progresses. It’s hard to imagine this film as an average biopic when paired with the stimulating music that was chosen. These moments work from the very beginning, and need no time to be processed by the audience. It works because it’s the legacy that John is leaving behind, and these sequences couldn’t be any better.
Overall, Rocketman feels as if it’s a massive triumph. The film quickly glosses over the more appealing aspects of fame and remains in the grit of it. It shines a light on the problems John had throughout his entire life, and by the end, you feel relieved and grateful the story doesn’t end in a different way. For the path to forgiveness and understanding is long and harsh, but somehow, Rocketman finds a way to balance this with some of the most creatively stimulating sequences in a while. Never feeling too out of place, the music of John feels as bombastic and extravagant as ever, and the film truly is a blast from beginning to end.
Rocketman is being released by Paramount Pictures on May 31st in theaters.