You know that insatiable feeling you get when you connect to a musical artist that just seems to get you on such a deep level, it seems unreal? You popped in a cassette, a cd, or now download or stream an album and just get lost in the lyrics and the artistry. I’m thankful even as a movie guy I was able to still appreciate how much music had similarly impacted me. I’m thankful that music is not only essential to the way an audience digests a film but one of the strongest elements in filmmaking. Yes, there’s the script, and the performances, but the music can make or break a scene. The right song can be the supporting actor in a sequence to help guide the viewer through the catalog of emotions a director is wanting to elicit from the viewer. Imagine the challenge of scoring a film, directing the music, choreographing the movements and crafting a narrative that celebrates the rise and fall of one Music’s biggest icons.
Elton John was before my time. I mean, the Elton John, Elton John. The sex, drugs, rock and roll Elton John in which “Rocketman” is depicting. My Elton John, was “The Circle of Life” “Lion King” Elton John. A little more subdued, still flamboyant, but after much of the rockiness in his professional life. Leading up to my early screening for Dexter Fletcher’s next big hit, a trailer dropped last year that just blew me away. I didn’t know any of this stuff and I got a peak into a man’s life that was a rollercoaster experiences. I still won’t forget at the end of the 1st teaser for “Rocketman” it says, BASED ON A TRUE FANTASY. That struck such a chord with me as it sets the stage literally and figuratively for a fully stylized trip in which your just here for a good ride. It also may allow for a little narrative wiggle room for Dexter to tell this story. Since I’m not an Elton expert, and are not holding this production to anything more than what I’m given, I left the theater overjoyed with appreciation that I felt like I got to know the real Elton John in a matter of 2 hours.
“Rocketman” takes a behind the music look in to the life of Elton John who was born into the world as Reginal k Dwight. A cute kid with mommy and daddy issues and an amazingly gifted ear for music. He masters the piano and while searching for the love of his family and in himself he gets some advice from another singer that deeply affects him. In order to be the person you want to be you have to kill the person you were born to be. He creates an unforgettable stage persona that bleeds into his personal life but gets balanced out over the years with a powerful friendship and writing partner that rockets them to stardom. Music, money, power, love, fame all fuel his life but still doesn’t quite fill it.
This film fantastically paints the portrait of a man that started out like you and me, learning a lesson about self-discovery and does whatever it takes to become whoever he wants. Bio pics based on musical artists can all seem to chart the same. They have a rise and a fall and a redemption. Some are more tragic than others. Most often are riddled with demons from emotional familial trauma too. And, for the most part involve a lot of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Whatever the genre of music is, it’s what attracts us to these spectacular human beings. Watching their stories even though you may have seen them before, they’re all different because of the music and at its core we all want to be taught that regardless of how much we hold up these individuals they are still human beings.
Back to back, Dexter Fletcher has depicted 2 of the more mercurial musical talents who’s incredible career and legacy span several decades. After the rocky production of the multi Oscar winning “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Fletcher pursued an even bolder project focused on a man who is still living and who must fight for his blessing in the end. Approaching this story in the style of a musical not only honors Elton but gives him a tribute that is only fitting for the way in which he continues to live his life; out loud.
The musical numbers, the blocking, the blending of the traditional narrative and musical sequences shift masterfully. You never feel out of place or jarred when a transition happens. The choice to incorporate a huge ensemble of characters that are interwoven throughout time and the story is clever and cinematically strong.
All this can’t take shape without a talent, that can embody who Elton is and represents. This film’s success majorly is dedicated to Taron Egerton. He’s simply outstanding in his passionate portrayal of Elton John. He never holds back. His movements and mannerisms are Elton. His accent and affectations and oh my goodness his voice. For some, it may have been risky to not use the unique singing voice from Elton as a lip-synching opportunity for the production. Taron is an incredible singing talent that makes this performance his own but still Elton at the same time. It doesn’t hurt to have the man’s blessing, either. His performance is fearless and is evident in the very risqué and overt sexualized tones throughout the movie.
He’s anchored by Jamie Bell and Richard Madden’s strong performances too that accentuate the stellar acting throughout the entire ensemble.
This film was never afraid to be exactly what it wanted to be, the same way Elton chose to lead his life. It revels in the highs and doesn’t shy away from its lows. The themes expressed are all connecting points for anyone who watches this film. It’s heartbreaking to see a man fight so hard to be loved and not get it in return. It’s even sadder how we continue to see the artists we revere often are taken advantage of by the people closest to them. It’s great how we can also applaud the true friends that sacrifice and try and stick around as long as they can to support these artists too.
This may seem like a typical bio pic, but after watching the film you’ll realize how far off that is in this case. “Rocketman” is an impressively fantastic concert of emotions. This film is expertly scored, choreographed, written, directed and acted. Be ready for an out of this world journey and celebration of Elton Hercules John and the music he gave us.
KOLBYTOLDME RATING- 9/10
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Writer: Lee Hall
Starring: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard
Run Time: 121 mins