Rocketman Movie Review
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Elton John had a unique opportunity not afforded other music legends. With Rocketman he can tell his own story his way.
Part autobiography, part conceptual musical, Rocketman weaves hazy memory with idealized reality, recounting his life story through a rehab stint and the wild costumes we’ve come to associate with Elton John (Taron Egerton). Beginning with a rousing musical number in the post-war formative years with his ice-cold mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) and nurturing gran (Gemma Jones), through the his meeting longtime collaborator Bernie (Jamie Bell) and intense relationship with manager John Reid (Richard Madden), ending just after the only MTV video I remember of his, “I’m Still Standing.”
If you’re expecting a linear, logical movie, you might want to sit this one out. This is Elton John’s version and the only timeline that matters is how he chooses to tell it. Egerton channels John from wide-eyed shy musician to vulnerable rockstar to broken addict. For the parts of the movie that were simple dramatic memories, the cast manages to keep grounded a tale that could feel as surreal as drug trip.
There will be obvious comparisons to Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) so I won’t avoid them – musical genius chases demons through history finding love, drugs, and redemption. The difference is Mercury’s story feels tragic and unfinished, and not a little forced, but there is absolute joy in John’s life through music. I’m not saying I loved Rocketman, because while I love musicals, this really felt more like a stage performance translated to film, and those don’t always work. It’s very heavy in parts, like his childhood and distant parents, yet skims over years at a blink. Where Bohemian Rhapsody lingered on the drink and drugs and specific moments in relation to specific hits, Rocketman focuses more on the relationships that mattered and endured in spite of the drink and drugs, and the songs Elton John associates with them now.
There is a warm sense of humanity running through this film that’s missing from many biopics. It’s less a biography and more a celebration of colorful, fanciful history. It’s a retrospective and a memoir all seen through wild, if sober, lenses. Elton John is the hero in his own story and it’s a fun ride.
Rocketman may not be for everyone, but if you’d like to see how Elton John believe he’s lived his life, this is the best insight you’ll get.
Rocketman is rated R for swears, people drinking a lot, folks doing a lot of drugs, and sexytimes.