Warning: This contains spoilers
In the rich lineup of films this year, there is one I have been particularly excited to see: Rocketman. Now that I finally had the chance to watch it, I will break it down to those of you who want to know what to expect. Produced by Elton John himself, the film announces itself a quirky biopic right off the bat. Establishing the outrageous personality of the celebrated musician, it begins with a dramatic entrance of Elton in full concert garb… to a rehab facility. Taking his place in the circle of patients, he then announces his addictions: drugs, alcohol, and sex (along with a comic mention of shopping)—almost as if to warn the viewers of the R-13 rating of the film. Yep, this one’s unsanitized, folks, unlike another popular biopic that got an Oscar nod.
In hindsight, the comparisons between Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody might be unfair. But with their close release date, it’s impossible to not compare the two films. Especially since There were obvious parallels between the two. Both seek to tell the story of the biggest names ever in the history of music, whose stories closely resemble each other: a young misfit with big dreams and unparalleled talent who made it big but eventually spiralled out of control by the lifestyle that comes with the fame, and betrayal of their managers who took over their personal and professional lives. Not to mention, both projects’ director. In case you didn’t know, Rocketman was directed by Dexter Fletcher, the same guy who took over Bohemian Rhapsody after Brian Singer couldn’t finish it (though he remains uncredited). That said, the two were handled very differently.
Since I have already mentioned the rating, let’s start with that. Personally, I felt like Rocketman was able to step up where Bohemian Rhapsody fell through. Fletcher actually told IndieWire at Cannes that he didn’t feel any pressure to cut the R-rated scenes, even after the proven commercial success of Bohemian Rhapsody. “Any scenes with sex or drugs (taken from John’s real-life experiences) that were trimmed down were, according to Fletcher, done for runtime reasons rather than to avoid any content-related backlash,” the publication wrote. I especially appreciated that they showed the intimate scenes between him and his manager, John Reid, skillfully played by Richard Madden. I felt like it effectively established how Elton, a misfit craving for love, had been manipulated most of his life.
Additionally, unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, this one delved deep into Elton’s family issues, starting with his childhood. Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, the musician was clearly affected by the lack of affection by his father and his mother—told in parts by musical numbers featuring Elton John classics. Though it’s important to say that his lyrics, as his avid fans would now, are actually written by his lifelong friend, Bernie Taupi, whom he met early on in his career. And I suppose this is why I feel like though some did not fail to move (the rendition of “Tiny Dancer” made me cry TBH), most feels… forced. Especially with particular numbers such as “Bennie and the Jets.”
While I feel like Rocketman as a whole fell flat on certain scenes, it did have redeeming qualities. It was different, especially with the use of constant reappearances of a young Reggie throughout the film, a tool to portray that Elton had not completely “killed” his younger self. While I know not everyone would like this type of storytelling, it was something I appreciated. I would also like to note that similar to Bohemian Rhapsody, the lead’s acting saved the movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taron Egerton will be everywhere in upcoming movies in the next few years.
Photo courtesy of Rocketman’s Instagram account
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