©2019 by Sean Whitehurst

Rocketman (2019) <><><>



Taron Egerton shines brighter than his costumes as Sir Elton John in Rocketman. Egerton sings all the songs in the movie incredibly well. The most obvious comparison to this movie is Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman is so much better. Where Egerton sings throughout the movie, Malek mostly lip-synced. Bohemian Rhapsody tried to pass itself off as a biopic, Rocketman is a musical with vague personal history. And what a musical Rocketman is!


The movie starts with 1990s Elton John in rehab, but quickly goes to Matthew Illesley as a young Reggie Dwight. We get a glimpse of Elton's childhood, a failing home with an early discovery of musical prowess. As Reggie ages the actor is replaced by Kit Connor. The back story leading up to Elton signing his first contract may not be historically accurate, but it is believable and fun when set to music.


As Elton's fame grows, John Reid, played by Richard Madden, enters his life. Elton's writing partner for his entire career Bernie Taupin, played by Jamie Bell, has reservations about Reid. Between a broken home and searching for love with Reid, Elton starts spiraling. First, Elton ascends to the first peak of his career. When the money is there, Reid encourages John to indulge while also ramping up his touring schedule. You feel for Elton John as he spirals down a self destructive path with drugs, alcohol, suicide attempts and ending relationships.


Some of the story in the movie would be harder to digest if the songs weren't so fantastic. Elton John and Bernie Taupin are one of the greatest writing pairs in history. This movie is at its best when their life's work is put alongside fantastic visuals. Rocketman is what every musical should be, a continuous music video that has you rocking out in your seat. The songs sung by Egerton are the stars of this movie and the life story sits second.


Bohemian Rhapsody insisted on itself much to its own detriment. It overlooks Freddie Mercury's queerness, sexual promiscuity, and descent into drug and alcohol addiction. Obviously, this was intended to attract a wider audience, but the film's silence also denigrates Mercury's status as a queer and rock icon. "Rocketman" is not afraid to match the larger-than-life personality at its center; a film that does not include camp, glamour, and queerness has no place representing this pop icon. Elton John's music is wisely used as a creative window into this musical genius' imagination, turning an otherwise generic aging montage into a fun musical number.


When Elton debuts "Crocodile Rock" at the Troubadour, his feet float off the ground, establishing the fantastical aspects of this film. This is a fitting representation for Elton's larger-than-life personality. Camp and glamour are synonymous with Elton's on-stage persona.


Rocketman is a fun two hour celebration of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's music through the early 1990s. It also accepts the fact that it will hit a narrower audience than Bohemian Rhapsody. Bohemian Rhapsody wanted to dominate at the box office and sanded off many edges. Rocketman is going to upset some people that like Elton's music but don't want to accept his lifestyle.

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