Simple Review: Reg strikes back!
Here is a tidbit for you youngsters reading my brilliant work: if Hollywood starts making biopics of musicians you love then you are officially old. As a cinematic reminder that I am inching closer to meeting the supernatural anesthetist ( anyone get that reference? If so we are now best friends), Hollywood has delivered another movie chronicling the life of a musician I grew up listening to, Elton John. After the success of the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, Elton’s life seems like a natural fit for the next big screen adaptation of an over-the-top rock star. As theatrical as Freddie Mercury was, Elton took it to eleven so who wouldn’t want to see this incredible showman’s rise to superstardom played out on screen? So did Rocketman do Captain Fantastic justice or did it go breaking my heart? Well, put on your platform shoes, throw a pair of wacky glasses on your face and lets crocidile rock this review! La-La-La-la-laaaaa
Elton John is one of the unlikeliest rock superstars to ever rise from backing musician to legendary 40 plus year career. He is a short, chubby, balding gay man with big glasses that captured the music worlds heart in the ’70s and he never looked back. Armed with outlandish stage costumes and a catalog of some of the biggest hits in rock history, Elton reached heights of fame and fortune that anyone that ever picked up a musical instrument could only dream of. As a rockstar that went through the ’70s and ’80s, his story is an incredible tale of excess and non-stop indulgence that leaves you in awe of the fact that he survived any of it. As unique and flamboyant a performer Elton is, he deserved a movie that told his life story in an equally unique and flamboyant way and the filmmakers took that challenge and ran with it!
The first thing that you should be made aware of is that Rocketman is not your typical cut and paste Hollywood biography. Director Dexter Fletcher and writer Lee Hall have delivered an energetic rock and roll biography with moments of Elton’s life playing more like a Broadway musical than your standard ” this is what happened in 1975″ type of movie. Scenes will spontaneously erupt into a beautifully choreographed song and dance number combining Elton’s biggest hits with over-the-top visuals and moments of amazing absurdity. A scene involving young Reginald’s first gig in a bar spontaneously combusts into an insane version of ” Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting” that has characters staring in the bar only to end up dancing through a nearby local carnival. Another moment has Elton attempting suicide only to wind up singing a duet of ” Rocketman” with a younger version of himself at the bottom of a pool that leads to grown-up Elton blasting off from the stage at his historic concert at Dodger Stadium. Yes, this is over-the-top, go-for-broke movie some of us were hoping Bohemian Rhapsody would be.
As I always am with you, my reliable reader, I must be honest with you and tell you I loved the moments of absurdity this movie throws at you. From the very opening scene as Elton bursts into a group therapy session to tell his story dressed in one of his wild on-stage get-ups, you know this movie is not going to be boring. To his credit, whatever input Elton had on the film he allowed the filmmakers to show him at his best and worst. From triumphant live performances in front of sold-out crowds to temper tantrums fueled by constant drug and alcohol use, nothing seems to be off limits in the film. Yes, this includes Elton’s sexuality. If you are squeamish about seeing two men doing naughty things with each other on screen, then this movie might not be for you. Elton is gay and this movie doesn’t beat around the bush about it, diving into Elton’s relationships with men and the desperation for love that he had. It is this desperate need to be loved that fuels Elton’s anger and depression and the film does a nice job showing not only his adult insecurities but where these insecurities were manifested in his childhood.
The movie would have been doomed to failure if the right person to play Elton wasn’t found, and fortunately, Taron Egerton is damn near perfect in the role. Much like Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, Taron puts everything he has into the role and he delivers. Taron mixes the right amount of charisma, arrogance and self-loathing into his portrayal of Elton and I hope he gets some recognition come awards season. I swear that moment where he is backstage at Dodger Stadium looking exhausted only to “become” Elton John as he takes the stage is brilliant! And yes, he does sing all of the songs and while he isn’t exactly an Elton sound alike you get a better sense of the emotions being pulled out of the song because he is finding that keyword or phrase in the song to hit to convey where Elton is at that moment in the film. He has a nice voice as well so it doesn’t take long to adjust to the vocal differences. The rest of the cast does well in their roles with Jamie Bell, as Elton’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mom, Sheila, standing out from the rest of the players. Although as an American I am not sure how Bryce did with her British accent so if any of my friends across the pond would like to comment and let me know I’d love to hear your input!
While I enjoyed Rocketman, it is not without its flaws. Much like a regular Hollywood musical, there are moments when the film gets bogged down in too many musical numbers and it starts to drag a bit because of it. It is challenging to watch a “serious” scene only to have it interrupted by a movie version of one of Elton’s hit songs being set to a choreographed number as it pulls you out of the moment. It doesn’t happen often but especially toward the end of the movie I found myself thinking, ” just get on with it already and end this song”. Strangely enough, after the movie was over I didn’t feel like I learned all that much about Elton as a person. The movie does go into his childhood and the effects the relationship with his parents had on him, but it felt like the movie only scratched the surface of a rock icon and didn’t get too deep into his motivations and driving forces that kept him going through 40 years in an industry that few survive long in. It doesn’t shy away from showing the bad side of Elton’s personality and his need to be loved but I felt like there was more to be told, but then again it was only a two-hour movie.
We have reached the time to end this rambling review and I know it makes you sad but ‘I guess that’s why they call it the blues”. I absolutely enjoyed Rocketman and strongly recommend it especially if you are a fan of old Reginald Dwight! This movie doesn’t pretend to be an accurate telling of Elton’s life instead it is a real life rock and roll fantasy that will have your “Tiny Dancer” bouncing in your theater seat!
I hope you enjoyed my silly review!!
As always, thanks for your time!
The Movie Psycho