Rocketman is a wonderfully fanciful musical biopic that chronicles the riveting life of music icon Elton John (played by Taron Egerton). Straying from the straight chronological format of a normal biographical film, it makes use of fantasy to depict Elton’s seemingly charmed life that soon spirals out of control due to drugs, alcohol, and other deplorable vices that he shakily but bravely admits at the start of the movie. Having flung himself into therapy, the entirety of the movie is essentially Elton recounting his glorious yet solitary superstar past in rehab.
So, is it worth the watch?
What I Liked About It
Taron Egerton is perfect as Elton John.
Magnetic and charming, Taron Egerton dazzles as the iconic glam rocker. Not only does he have the chops to carry his own renditions of Elton’s classics, he’s got the singer’s gestures and demeanor down from that enchanting rock star sway on stage, to the minute flick of a wrist as well. His range of expressions especially captivates, along with the ease that he transitions from one emotion to the next, as he plays up from a broken and worn-down human backstage to a beaming bundle of unfettered rock god energy in a matter of seconds. One that reminds us of Margot Robbie’s emotional mirror scene in I Tonya, the clear theatricality of this act, told only through his facial movements, is completely heartbreaking.
The fashion is impeccable.
We start with Taron as Elton bursting through double doors in an outrageous orange cat suit, demonized with giant wings and horns. It’s an entirely outlandish look that sets the stage for the rest of Elton’s extremely delicious fashion choices throughout the film. As a press release perfectly describes, costume designer Julian Day finds the ideal “balance between imitation and homage,” choosing to interpret his own version of Elton’s wardrobe, rather than copy his most famous looks down to a T. The result is Taron dressed up in extravagantly vibrant and, at times, bizarre garb. From a sparkly sequined bird costume, to a bedazzled baseball uniform, to a voluminous Elizabethan frock, Rocketman’s fashion is undeniably one of the film’s high points.
Its music sustains an engaging energy.
Elton’s riveting music ties the whole story together, all seemingly set in a constant crescendo. Even his melancholic tunes harness an enthralling electricity that will either have you tapping at your feet (Bennie and the Jets), sighing in wonder (Your Song), or sympathizing in heartbreak (Tiny Dancer). While the jump into some of its musical sequences admittedly remain off-putting and jarring, the songs, and well-choreographed performances themselves do a good job at rectifying its music’s clunky entrance. Despite a haunting yet disappointingly truncated rendition of Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word, it’s also notable and laudable how the film takes liberties in choosing its songs. Rocketman doesn’t limit itself to the strict chronological timeline of a usual biopic. Instead, it opts to weave Elton’s rich repertoire into the narrative as each song best fits.
What I Didn’t Like About It
The first act was underwhelming.
Admittedly, Rocketman starts off shaky. Its attempt to establish Elton’s strained relationship with his father results to rough, disjointed scenes depicting his childhood, which then relegates half of the first act into a rushed and dizzying mess. It’s only when the film transitions into Elton’s adulthood, with its fueled Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) sequence, does it start to actually catch steam.
It has off-putting, arguably cheesy moments.
As fantastical as its cinematography may be, Rocketman isn’t free of overly dramatic scenes or cliché sentimental dialogue. In fact, a few particular beats in the narrative are laced with a certain on-the-nose bravado that borderlines on cringe-worthy. Spoiler alert: Take a devil-suit clad Elton in therapy session lying through his teeth, as he tells the room that he had a happy childhood and that him and his dad always hugged, before cutting to a particular scene showing how his cold and distant father never actually hugged him. Or for example, and again, spoiler alert: the dramatic climax of the movie with Elton, once again in therapy, making peace with caricatured imagined versions of the people from his past who had scorned him into a lonely life of drugs. It’s a textbook therapy cop-out trope, only saved by the poignant moment of an older Elton finally embracing an illusion of his younger self.
So Should You Watch It?
Despite the occasional awkward song transitions or bursts of melodrama, Rocketman is an electric and energetic film to indulge in. Brace yourself, though, because it’s undeniably going to be a wild rollercoaster ride with its own understandably depressing falls and magically toxic highs.
Catch Rocketman in cinemas starting tomorrow, June 19.