Directed by: Dexter Fletcher
Written by: Lee Hall
Starring: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones
Music biopics follow the same tired formula that displays the rise of an artist, reaching their apex, eventually succumbing to alcohol or drug abuse, hitting rock bottom, and then a comeback in the end. It’s simple and has even been parodied by Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, but the way this film, in particular, utilizes the safeguards that formula provides and adds a fresh and flashy musical element transcends all others.
After not finding much love form his parents for the musical talent he holds, Dwight Yorke (Taron Egerton) gets the opportunity to showcase his gift. That leads him to team up with a soon-to-be lifelong friend Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) as they combine their lyrics and singing abilities to create Elton John, a true musical phenomenon.
Elton John stands as one of my favorite artists in my admittedly limited scope of being a consumer of music. He possesses a special flair to his songs that have made him into an icon of the larger world with “Candle in the Wind” and the film realm with The Lion King soundtrack. Elton stands out as someone who deserves a story that matches his personality, which he received in this dazzling film that aptly described itself as a musical fantasy. Through not only integrating the songs of Elton John in musical sequences but also in the score, Rocketman works so magnificently well and swept me off of my feet.
The casting of this iconic figure is one of the best I have ever seen in Taron Egerton. Someone who has made his name in commercial hits like Kingsman: Secret Service, but also an excellent singer and even sang an Elton John song in the animated film Sing. Taron was born for this role and he did not squander the opportunity to impress the world not only with his singing ability, but also the nuance, vulnerability, and power this role requires. He hits all of the necessary notes without trying to imitate Elton John. The chemistry he has with Jamie Bell feels electric and I truly felt their friendship through the low and high moments of their working relationship. However, I must say that while Elton and Bernie insist they have never been in a fight, one sequence in the film strongly challenges that assertation. Hopefully, this stands to be Taron Egerton’s breakout role in regard to being viewed as a serious actor because he puts on a remarkable performance.
What makes or breaks this film’s success relies on the use of its music. It could easily be a terrible film like Bohemian Rhapsody that simply becomes a concert movie that doesn’t add anything dynamic to the music, but Rocketman’s use of the legendary songs works so well. All of the musical sequences where Taron dances along with background dancers are fantastically choreographed and have the heart behind the lyrics. It’s a fantasy with many sequences pushing the boundary of what realistically occurs and the way the music sweeps everyone’s senses towards pure elation. The best one being the sequence with “Crocodile Rock” that gave me goosebumps with the execution and exploded the career of Elton in the film. Additionally, the songs are integrated into the score that plays throughout the film, primarily “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” That score underlying all of the drama of the story rose Rocketman to another level in my estimations.
The director, Dexter Fletcher, continues to impress with this incredible biopic after piecing together the mess of Bohemian Rhapsody and crafting the beautifully uplifting Eddie the Eagle. He adds the necessary flair for this story to succeed and presents the stark contrast of having his own film to make from scratch as compared to the other one shows his prowess behind the camera. This could have been bland but every sequence of the film has dynamism and much of the credit must go to him.
The theme of love remains the center of Rocketman, which Elton has been seeking his entire life. He tries to achieve that through his parents, his lovers, music, and then unfortunately with drugs and alcohol. The way this film connects that theme through all of his music and especially with the song “Rocketman” creates a breathtaking visual display of emotional longing. This story provides the closure Elton needed and while he could not get it from everyone in his life, all he needed to do is love himself to truly be happy. Incredibly uplifting and I’m so pleased that everything came together for the right talent to create this film. It’s euphoric, emotional, and a visual splendor as it celebrates one of the greatest musicians to ever use a microphone.