Rocketman: Film Review

I was extremely excited for Rocketman because I love Taron Egerton (a well-known fact about me) and a lot of Elton John‘s songs so it was a winning combination. However, I didn’t feel completely satisfied with the story and was left wanting more.

Like most biopics, the film charts the humble beginnings of Reggie Dwight, growing up in a troubled household, with dissatisfied mum Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard), lovely grandma Ivy (Gemma Jones) and a cold and mostly absent father Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) to him, now known as Elton John, finding success with lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). He achieves worldwide stardom in his early 20s and soon becomes troubled by an addiction to drink and drugs, an eating disorder and his unrequited feelings for manager John Reid (Richard Madden).

It’s very easy and obvious to compare Rocketman to director Dexter Fletcher‘s most recent project Bohemian Rhapsody, given that the subject is gay and has a drug addiction, but I’m going to do it. The Freddie Mercury biopic was accused of being too tame and giving an airbrushed version of events and the producers of Rocketman insisted that wouldn’t be the case with theirs. It is definitely darker and grittier – not shying away from the harsh reality of his addiction or his homosexuality – but it still skipped over a lot of stuff, or didn’t give enough weight or gravity to some events. I wanted it to go even deeper. It didn’t feel like enough and I wanted more.

Rhapsody was a drama film with musical performances in it, while Rocketman is a musical through and through, with the actors bursting into an Elton song whenever. I prefer this technique but I must admit the stage performances were the most visually entertaining and exciting. It was great to see Elton’s outfits and wild, energetic stage presence being recreated. The stage performances are where Rocketman truly excels and I must give a shout out to the costume designer Julian Day for creating faithful versions of some of Elton’s most eyebrow-raising looks.

The film takes a slightly different approach to the usual biopic as it slides into fantasy on occasion and is structured differently, framed by an older Elton recalling his life story in a rehab facility, so the rest serves as flashbacks. The film lingers a bit too long on his uncomfortable home life in the beginning and ends when he gets sober, so we miss out on the most recent 28 years of his story. But don’t worry, you can read all about those in the cheesy pre-credits sequence! You can feel the influence of Elton’s husband David Furnish – who served as a producer – all over that. Perhaps that’s why the film didn’t go as dark as it could have.

Egerton was the perfect casting and he does a fantastic job. He can sing beautifully, dance, act and he looks a bit like the singing legend with the help of fake teeth, hair and glasses. He gives an impressive dramatic performance and captures John’s showmanship and I would be so happy if he got some awards love for this. I also loved Bell, his Taupin was very, very good, and Stephen Graham as no-nonsense manager Dick James. The biggest letdown was Howard. Her British accent was all over the place and she was “acting” and really overdoing things.

Like Bohemian Rhapsody, I think audiences are going to love Rocketman even though the story didn’t quite have the emotional punch I was after. It is a crowd-pleasing film – all the best-loved Elton songs are in there and some of the musical sequences are visually spectacular. You will likely come away with a smile on your face and an Elton track stuck in your head.

In cinemas Wednesday 22nd May 

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