Elton John. We know his music, we know his look, we know the level of class and talent he’s capable of. But do we really know him, as a person, as a compadre? In Dexter Fletcher’s latest biopic, regarding the the rise to fame of the Elton John’s work and celebrity status, this musical fantasy is everything but boring. Presented with numerous fantastic musical set-pieces as a window into Elton’s childhood and drug/alcohol addictions, Rocketman is a surprisingly poignant venture that neither ridicules, nor disrespects the living legend himself.
The film plays like a group therapy session, where we witness Elton take over a communal group circle, where he discusses his many flaws and downfalls with substance abuse. Due to how the film is shown through the eyes of a non-reliable narrator, Fletcher and company utilizes this very narrative perspective as means for creative advantage, where we witness the musical melodies of Elton’s life through a fantastical, imaginative vision. Through celluloid, all the way to it’s astonishing long takes, Fletcher successfully created a labor of love, that can match and replicate the extraordinary life of a pop culture icon to a tee. Nothing ever slows down in Rocketman, where we’re always situated into a whirlwind of excess.
Perfectly encapsulating the performance art and vibrant energy of the real-life Elton John, actor Taron Egerton never stops for even a single moment to relish in the beauty of his excellent role. His nuanced talent truly shines, where he perfectly situates the audience through several hard-to-view sequences of abuse and relationship trauma, where his body language and mannerisms speak more than just a thousand words. Alongside his terrific work, we shouldn’t disregard Jamie Bell’s work here, where his role as Bernie Taupin (close friend and lyricist for Elton) arguably takes over the same amount of energy and catharsis which Edgerton manages to accomplish.
Amidst it’s chaotic imaginative realm, the lack of focus and detail in the start of Elton’s career (which is presented in the first twenty minutes or so), is one element that’s clearly lacking. For a film in which it’s primary goal is to demonstrate the rise and eventually downsides to Elton’s musical career, one of the most important elements in showing his humanity, is demonstrating the building blocks of his youth. While occasionally shown, there’s not enough here to connect to young Elton’s life, where were largely stuck with a more older and unreliable perspective; which at times feels more like a compilation of rated-R fan-made music video edits more than anything else.
Beautifully directed, yet a tad bit shallow in terms of the film’s latter half execution, Rocketman is an awe inspiring tribute to a great musical artist. Fletcher’s vision is uncompromising, and it’s rare nowadays to receive a studio-mandated production which actually manages to pull off artistic risks in terms of both it’s visual storytelling and narrative. Emotionally powerful, and astonishingly performed, Rocketman is destined to become a future musical classic, and a potential awards contender.
Rocketman screened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and will hit cinemas nationwide on May 30th