Friday, May 31

Rocketman Review


Dir: Dexter Fletcher

Starring: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones, Matthew Illesley, Kit Conner, Tom Bennett, and Steven Mackintosh

Arizona State University, during my freshman year of college, was a great place to go to school if you were music fan because of a little slice of heaven called Hoodlums Record Store. This music shop was on campus, always had a great selection of music, and had a staff recommendation wall where you could find brand new musical adventures to explore. It was on this wall where a choice selection from one of my favorite record store clerks was on display, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” from Elton John. 

Up to this point Sir Elton was an overlooked artist in my music catalog, I knew the all the hits but never explored an Elton John album completely. By the time you get to the third track on “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Benny and the Jets”, it’s undeniable that you are listening to something special, something classic. 

Director Dexter Fletcher, who stepped in to fill the shoes vacated by Bryan Singer on “Bohemian Rhapsody”, brings the story and music of Reginald Dwight to fantastical and heartfelt life in “Rocketman”. This is a musical, from start to finish; one that feeds on the fan fascination of Elton John’s musical prowess with touches found in direct song and dance numbers to simple composition moments tinged with familiar elements from the artist’s catalog of songs. It’s also a story about therapy and rehabilitation, about a broken family structure and a newfound relationship found through friendship, and it’s also a story about that magical process of making music and the magic that happens when music touches the heart. 

The film begins in a room with a support group where Elton John (Taron Egerton) is telling his story, from the beginning, as a young boy (Matthew Illesley) called Reggie by his mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) and ignored by his stern father (Steven Mackintosh). Reginald is a prodigy, playing music by simply listening to the tune, composing original melodies by simply feeling which keys sound good together. It doesn’t take long for Reg to gain notoriety in London, soon leaving home to compose music for Liberty Records, and quickly skyrocketing to an American showcase with songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) at the West Hollywood venue The Troubadour. It’s at this concert where the legend of Elton John takes form.

Director Dexter Fletcher and writer Lee Hall apply some interesting elements throughout “Rocketman” which is trying to be more than just a standard music biopic. The film implements a good narrative structure which starts in a support group room and moves back in time to tell the story. While this causes a few occasions where the timeline may be hard to identify, it allows some freedom in crafting the design of the film elements. Throughout the movie characters move from dialog to song, from walking to dancing, and the world changes from reality to fantasy to match the personal themes Elton is experiencing at each specific moment in time. It allows the film to have a fairytale like quality in some moments but also some poignant imagery when it comes to the relationship Elton had with being loved and the harmful indulgences that consumed part of his life.

Taron Egerton is great in the lead role, singing all the songs with familiar inflections and displaying performance scenes with all the swagger and confidence Elton is known for. Egerton also does an impressive job with the emotional aspects, specifically in scenes where Elton is craving simple moments of love from his father and his partner/manager John Reid played by Richard Madden. Jamie Bell is also good throughout film playing the calm and quiet songwriter Bernie Taupin. You can feel the unbreakable kinship that Elton and Bernie have for one another, Jamie Bell and Taron Egerton handle the changing identify of the characters with ease. 

“Rocketman” struggles in moments, specifically in terms of scope in addressing the reach Elton John had during his career which transcended mere album sales and extended into another definition of what a “rockstar” could be. Also, some of the indulgences in the design take over too aggressively, with forced dance numbers or music cues that don’t fit into the narrative composition of the character. 

Still, “Rocketman” is having a great time showcasing the joy of making music while also characterizing a musician who struggled to find happiness and love outside of the tunes he crafted so beautifully. While some elements struggle to hit the mark they are aiming for, the vast majority of the film does a great job of making people remember why the music of Elton John will never go out of style. 

Monte’s Rating

3.50 out of 5.00

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