Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Biopics are always challenging. Trying to condense the life of a public figure into a couple of hours is never easy, which is why it can go wrong. It must be even more intimidating when your subject is still alive, and in this case, Elton John is very much alive and kicking at the age of 72.
Rocketman was a project that was closely followed by a number of fans and media outlets, all of them keen to see how they brought his story to life on-screen. With Dexter Fletcher at the helm and a star-studded cast, the film certainly had potential. And boy did it deliver.
Something that took me by surprise was the fact the film was more of a musical, rather than a straight-up biopic. I must admit I’m not the biggest fan of musicals most of the time, but I was instantly charmed by the musical numbers in Rocketman. It felt appropriate to present someone so passionate about music in this way. The film is choreographed to perfection, with the key moments in Elton’s life brought to life through song and dance.
In the leading role, Taron Egerton absolutely shone as Elton. The fact he actually sang so many of his iconic songs, and did them well, is something that should be celebrated for years to come. But even beyond the music, the way he showcased Elton’s pain throughout his years brought me to tears several times, and I’d be as bold to say his performance was award worthy. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
It was also refreshing to see the brutal honesty in the film. Elton John himself said he ‘hadn’t lived a PG-13 life’, so the inclusion of sex, drugs and depression was absolutely necessary. Elton suffered from a lot of addictions, which are unapologetically presented on screen. There were so many tragedies I was not aware of, and it was so awful to see how he’d been treated by those close to him.
His parents in particular, Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Stanley (Steven Mackintosh), weren’t accepting of him and created a toxic home environment for Elton. I wasn’t aware of these strained relationships so it was interesting to observe, and the performances felt incredibly raw and devastating.
Naturally, the film also explored Elton’s first relationship with music manager John Reid (Richard Madden). This was heartbreaking to witness, as there was a lot of abuse and manipulation from Reid throughout their relationship. I thought Madden was exceptional in this role; villainous yet charismatic, and he delivered some truly cutting lines that, again, made me cry.
The one constant good relationship in Elton’s life was, and still is, Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). The two worked closely over the years to write the lyrics we know and love, and have endured lots together. As a key figure in his life, it was essential he was played well, and I couldn’t be happier with Bell’s performance. The energy between him and Egerton was a powerful thing.
These great performances are set against a beautiful backdrop of glitz and glamour, with some seriously impressive live shows where Egerton gets the opportunity to really shine. The gorgeous set design, costume design and cinematography only broke my heart further, when it became apparent a lot of it was a lie, and deep down Elton was battling with many demons. Fame does not always equal happiness, and this film is the epitome of that message.
Whilst it’s not an easy film to watch at times, it’s a beautiful celebration of Elton’s life that I can’t wait to experience again. He has came such a long way, and the film does everything in its power to show both the lows and highs, and remind fans where he came from. My advice would be to bring tissues, you’re going to need them.
Rocketman is in cinemas worldwide now. Watch the trailer below:
3 thoughts on ““Rocketman”: A dazzling, brutally honest biopic”
Elton has been doing interviews in the US saying that he had to fight to make the film “R” rated, because he “didn’t live a PG-13 life.” I applaud that – sometimes the subject matter needs to be more “adult”, and I’m happy they told the story they wanted to tell without watering it down – great review!
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Although I didn’t have quite the strong positive reaction as you, I do think Egerton’s performance is absolutely incredible.
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