Elton John is the latest musical icon to receive the biopic treatment in director Dexter Fletcher's Rocketman from Paramount Pictures. As Rocketman opens up, we met Elton John (Taron Egerton) as he is entering rehab. From the moment Egerton utters his first line of dialogue, I was sold on his performance. Egerton's opening monologue detailing his vices of choice is a different yet respectable choice for screenwriter Lee Hall to open the film. I consider myself a casual Elton John fan, so I had no idea that he was an addict. From that moment, it's clear that director Dexter Fletcher and his screenwriter don't intend to give the audience a standard musical biopic.
One of the opening musical numbers introduces us to a young Reggie Dwight (Matthew Illesley) who later becomes Elton John. Reggie has a tragic home life, including a mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) who doesn't pay him any attention and an absentee father. Eventually, Reggie discovers his natural talent of repeat playing music that he hears and sets out to become a singer-songwriter. Along the way, Elton meets numerous music legends who become vital factors in his journey to success. They include his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and manager and eventual boyfriend, John Reid (Richard Madden).
Similar to other large scale musical biopics, Rocketman succeeds from the strength of Taron Egerton as Elton. Egerton does the singing in the film, allowing Egerton to give his take on Elton John, particularly in the musical numbers. The musical director could've gone the safe route and just had Egerton lip-sync. Still, I feel that would've taken away from the performance.
I must also give George Richmond's cinematography credit as the film is quite beautiful to look at it. There are moments in the movie when Elton performs a song, and the effects play out visually on the screen. The film's musical numbers have more of a high-scale Broadway play than a traditional Hollywood film, which I'll admit was a distraction during some of the film's moments. However, it appears that the director and screenwriter and Elton John wanted to show that Elton saw music and the world on a grand scale. The non-linear storytelling route that Rocketman provides won't be for everyone, I for one, I enjoyed it
Unlike last year's big musical biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman doesn't shy away from Elton's sexual orientation. Rocketman pushes its R rating pretty far for a Hollywood film, so it's not a movie for children. While Rocketman shines, for the most part, the film does fall into the trap that most musical biopics do.
Given John's vast catalog, there were going to be some song omissions. To my surprise, "Candle in the Wind" appears nowhere in the film, and there were moments where the song would've fit perfectly. There were also moments that never fully developed, such as Elton's relationship with John Reid, which I wanted the filmmakers to develop more. Nevertheless, Rocketman is an excellent take on Elton John's story.
Final Grade: B