Rocketman is fantastic. To put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence would be redundant. Plain and simple. It’s amazing. I don’t know why I waited to see it. I wished I would have watched in the cinema; however, I suffered watching on my living room tv. This biopic is so grand, from the moment it begins to the end, it demands a larger screen. Dexter Fletcher directs with lavish style and color keeping the audience transfixed between dysfunctional family and relational dynamics and break out song and dance sequences made popular like a Glee episode. It worked and made sense. The flow and pace were natural as if I expected the next moment to happen just as it was presented. The colors and spectacle of each scene from the early childhood home with the muted colors to the grand concerts and costumes evoked nostalgia for a place I have never been and a wish to experience. The rush of having the whole audience right in the moment with me floating in air. To be able to lift normalcy out of reality and bring people together with music is an amazing gift Elton John and Bernie Taupin have shared with the world and it’s masterfully shown in this movie. This movie could’ve been longer for me.
Taron Egerton is masterful, vulnerable, and cutting as Elton John. His work was so well thought out, I found myself thinking it was Elton playing himself. He enters the film in full stage costume consisting of a yellow jumpsuit, red wings, and devil horns. And, of course, his signature matching glasses. He’s got my attention. Now what?
The story starts in a treatment center and is told via spectacular flashbacks beginning when Elton is a young Reginald played by Matthew Illesley. This young actor, in his first major film, plays a sweet faced boy with the talent of being able to play the piano after hearing something on the radio. His mother and grandmother are surprised and manage to get young Reggie to lessons. Thank God for that. I’m afraid the poor boy would have gone down a much darker path without his grandmother’s support and the world music opened up for him. I know, a darker path? The movie includes the destructiveness of suicide attempts; however, due to the era of the events, I wonder how any of those larger than life rock stars made it out alive. If young Reggie hadn’t found music, it likely would’ve ended up in a loveless marriage, hiding who he really was, and working some tired job he hated. Repeating the cycle of his distant father and emotionally detached mother.
With his new name Elton, he meets the love of his life Bernie Taupin, played by Jamie Bell. I know, I know, their relationship isn’t like that. But it was for Elton. Bernie was Elton’s ticket out of a life he despised and together they made history through music. *Just until recently, I thought Elton and Bernie only worked together on musicals and stuff. I didn’t realize, or pay attention, the fact that Bernie wrote the lyrics and Elton the music. As I watched the film, the songs came to life in a way which had a deeper sense of meaning I never knew. I just thought the lyrics were wacky as some lyrics were back in those days. I don’t know. The lyrics were actually a glimpse into the relationship and world Elton and Bernie experienced. Finding real love as a regular person is hard enough but finding it with a genuine person when you’re a huge star like Elton almost feels impossible. This movie shows us how hard it was for him to distinguish between the “love” of the fans and those who manage to latch on for the ride only to leave as soon as Elton himself figures it out. It made me sad.
The costumes for the time period and performances were amazing to look at and as a theatre producer and director, I wanted a closer look. I wanted to freeze frame the scenes so I could capture the looks in my mind for a later date. Not only is the movie a biopic of Elton John but a snap shot of the fashion of the time. Thank God for these images to help us remember. I know, you can use google images but to see how a large group of people would wear these items and how they were put together is much more exciting than scrolling a computer screen.
The music is woven in and out of the story so seamlessly, it feels like dialogue. There’s an insight to Elton and Bernie’s music, I know I mentioned it earlier but it bears repeating, in the placement of each song at the time of the plot line. It puts the lyrics in perspective and evokes more feeling and insight to what was happening at the time.
Bryce Dallas Howard plays Elton’s mother Sheila. I didn’t even recognize her with dark hair and accent. Howard does a fine job as a cold hearted mother looking for love herself. Sheila is resentful being left with a young child while her husband Stanley, played by Steven Mackintosh, comes and goes when he feels like and is more interested in his record collection than his family. The scene when Elton goes to visit his father later in the movie is heart-breaking to watch. His father is so cold and has moved on to create a family he is more connected complete with two young sons. The interaction between Stanley and the two boys makes it even harder to watch Elton realize he’ll never get the approval he’s been seeking from his father. To add the other parental nail in Elton’s coffin, when Elton “comes out” to his mother over the phone, the best she can say is basically yeah I know and it’s annoying being your mother. (I’m paraphrasing, Sheila’s actual words are much more evil.) Ah parents, can’t be born without them. Where would be without their love and support?
After all of this, Rocketman is a movie I would purchase for my collection. It is well shot, the plot lines are supported by the flashback dance sequences, and it’s just so plain beautiful to watch. I would watch it again for the reasons just stated but also because I love a good tragedy. Now, I know Elton is still alive and well and didn’t die from the attempts. There are some cute pics of him in the credits with his partner and their boys. But his story is a bit tragic. And Thank God it was. We got some great music out of it.