Given the success of Bohemian Rhapsody last year and the upcoming releases of Judy, Stardust and So Much Love, musical biopics are having their moment in the spotlight. I can assure you though, that no other film you see this year will be as spectacularly flamboyant and entertaining as Rocketman. However, this is a film that can not, and should not, be compared to Bohemian Rhapsody, although many will probably try. The two are so inherently different, that it would be like trying to compare chalk and cheese.
If you go into this film wanting to see a typical biographical picture, this is not the film for you. Rocketman is not a watered-down chronological retelling of the life of Elton John, but is instead a musical fantasy based on Elton’s troubled early years, set to the sounds of his best hits and inspired by the World’s most extroverted introvert. There may be a lot of glitz, glamour and glitter but, I can assure you, it does not gloss over the more sensitive aspects of the film (drugs, alcohol and homosexuality), but embraces them with an honesty that is refreshing to see on the big screen.
The story starts with Elton (Taron Egerton), bedecked in a full Swarovski encrusted devil costume, checking himself into rehab for a number of addictions, including but not limited to; drugs, alcohol, sex, bulimia and shopping. We then follow the story as Elton tells it, from his troubled childhood through to the height of his addictions, and all the highs and lows in between. It is this technique of being told through Elton’s eyes that allows the film to play out the way it does, with a creative license that feels natural not necessary.
When you think of Elton John, two things come to mind: his music and his costumes, and this film plays a perfect homage to both.
Credit needs to go to Costume Designer, Julian Day, who brought some of Elton’s most classic looks to the big screen with an incredible amount of detail. It may be early days, but I am pretty confident that a Best Costume Design Oscar Nomination is in the bag.
Although I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘fan’ of Elton John, I do enjoy a large bulk of his music and the way it is used throughout the film, not only showcases his talent, and the talent of his life-long writing partner Bernie Taupin, but adds to the telling of the story. The songs we hear are not performed chronologically, in fact, the film starts with ‘The Bitch is Back (1974) and ends with ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ (1973), instead Elton and Bernie’s music is used in such a way that it fits with the emotion and purpose of the scene we are watching.
Taron Egerton offers a brilliant performance as Elton, one that I am sure will earn him (at least) a nomination for the Best Actor Oscar, as he perfectly balances the flamboyant, dazzling showman that we all know and love, with the love-starved vulnerable person underneath. Although Taron brings his own personality to the role, there were times late on in the film where his performance was so good, that both Mark and I thought they had done a bit of a CGI face-meld with the real Elton, or possibly used a bit of stock footage (they hadn’t). A lot of this was due to Taron’s ability, however kudos needs to be given to the make-up department for absolutely nailing it.
As with his real-life counterpart, this is not a one man show and Rocketman has a fantastic supporting cast, with Jamie Bell as Elton’s lifelong friend, song-writer Bernie Taupin, the man behind the music. Bryce Dallas Howard is almost unrecognisable as Elton’s rather self-indulgent mother (honestly, I didn’t realise it was her until the end, and it bugged me throughout 🙂 ).
As I have previously mentioned, this film does not gloss over the more sensitive aspects of Elton’s life, and the topic of homosexuality, while touched upon in Bohemian Rhapsody, is not shied away from here, with the relationship between Elton and his manager/lover, John Reid (Richard Madden) integral to both Elton’s life, and his addictions.
Without a doubt this film will be in my top ten at the end of year, more than likely taking the number one spot, so I would absolutely recommend this as a must-see. I promise that you will be tapping your toes, shimmying in your seat and leaving with a smile on your face.
Have you seen it already? I would love to hear your thoughts, did you love it as much as I did?