Pros: well-choreographed musical numbers; Taron Egerton’s performance; director’s work Cons: recognizable structure of the biopic “Rocketman” / Rocketman
Genre biopic, musical
Directed by Dexter Fletcher
Cast: Taron Egerton (Reginald Kenneth Dwight/Elton John), Jamie Bell (Bernie Taupin), Richard Madden (John Reid), Bryce Dallas Howard (Sheila), Stephen Graham (Dick James), Charlie Rowe (Ray Williams), Gemma Jones (Ivy), Keith Connor (Young Reginald), Rachel Muldoon (Kiki Dee), etc.
New Republic Pictures, Marv Films, Rocket Pictures
Year of release 2019
The premiere of the film “Rocketman” took place at the Cannes Film Festival, where he received a standing ovation. A few weeks later, it was the turn of Ukrainian viewers to understand whether the film was so good (or whether it was just a tribute to Sir Elton John). By the way, we are shown the full picture, and not its censored version, as in the Russian box office, from which scenes with drugs and intimate relationships between men were cut out.
Rocketman is a story about the musical success and personal trauma that haunted Elton John even at the peak of his career. The film introduces us to a little boy named Reginald Kenneth Dwight, who gradually turns into a world-class artist, appearing on stage in incredible outfits. Having gained popularity outside of England, he still cannot shake off the consequences of the indifference emanating from his parents.
Like other biopics about musicians, Rocketman follows a standard structure. The picture shows the main character at the moments when he was still a loser, and follows him into the world of wealth, a collision with which “gives” destructive addictions. However, there is something about it that sets Rocketman apart from other similar adaptations that have been released in recent years.
“Rocketman” is not just a biographical film, but a skillfully staged musical in which Elton John’s songs are used as illustrations for various episodes from the singer’s life. There are really a lot of musical numbers on the screen. This is not confusing, especially if familiar melodies are easy to recognize by ear.
Screenwriter Lee Hall (who previously collaborated with Elton John on the musical Billy Elliot) is passionate about the film’s music without wasting time on pointless performances. The songs in the tape become part of the development of the dialogue or turn into a smooth transition to a new storyline. The source material demands it—Hall needed to pack rich decades into a two-hour story. He succeeded. Not without the help of Elton, of course, who allowed the audience to show the greatest and most shameful stages of his career. He also allowed him to see his personal life, which John had previously been forced to hide.
The period when Elton John hid from the world is long gone. The musician began thinking about his own film back in 2001. He strongly rejected proposals that the biopic could be released with a PG-13 rating (such conditions were set by the Walt Disney Studio, cooperation with which never worked out), and eventually suggested Justin Timberlake as a contender for the leading role. Elton John could also have been played by Tom Hardy, but the actor left the project, and in 2018 his place was taken by Taron Egerton (“Kingsman”, “Robin Hood: The Beginning”).
Edgerton was faced with a monumental task of transformation, which could slide into parody at any moment. Taron accepted the challenge and met it with dignity. The actor himself performed all of Elton John’s songs, managing to get closer to his timbre. At the same time, Egerton did not get hung up on meticulously copying gestures and facial expressions; he presented his version of Elton John, which turned out to be close to the original.
Thanks to director Dexter Fletcher for the film’s colorful setting. It was he who was finishing work on Bohemian Rhapsody when Bryan Singer left the project. To be honest, Fletcher’s approach to musical films is immediately recognizable, especially after seeing the Mercury biopic. This is not a bad thing at all; Dexter Fletcher gives the pictures soulfulness and focuses on the atmosphere of the 50s-60s-70s. But before the release of “Rocketman,” the director draws conclusions and avoids the naive episodes that filled “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Interestingly, both films are united not only by Fletcher. In Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, there is a character named John Reed. This is a music manager who actually worked with both Elton John and Queen. In Rocketman, his personality is revealed slightly differently, and he is played by Richard Madden (Game of Thrones).
In pursuit of melody and the ability to create a beautiful performance, “Rocketman” juggles the chronology. But, after all, this is not a Wikipedia page about Elton John, so such an error can be forgiven. Moreover, the film turned out to be an eloquent confession, which, with a large number of musical numbers, does not allow you to lose interest in what is happening.
It’s not for nothing that “Rocketman” received a standing ovation at Cannes. This is a colorful musical with explicit episodes that fully illustrate the life of Elton John.