Film review: Rocketman

Synopsis:

While in rehab, Elton John recalls how he transformed from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into one of the most popular musicians in history.

Our review:

RACQ Publishing Journalists Jessica Wilson and Nathan Torpey attended the Brisbane premiere of Rocketman. Here are their reviews.

Jessica Wilson, Journalist

Rocketman doesn’t stray far from the tried-and-true biopic formula, but what could be a bog-standard tale of a musician finding fame and fortune before descending into drink and drug-fuelled bacchanalia is instead a riotous, bombastic, flamboyant, surreal and cheeky take on Elton John’s (Taron Egerton) rise to fame.

The film fully embraces John’s fantasy world with myriad hit songs woven into the story in surreal ways. Early in the film the pianist’s signature kick-handstand move causes the crowd to levitate and he literally blasts off into the sky while singing the titular Rocketman. 

Egerton’s John is relatable in his intense vulnerability and lovable even in his most brash and bullish moments. With the real Elton John as Executive Producer, you’re seeing John from his own point of view so it’s unsurprising that he is the hero in his own story.

At times it feels like you’re watching a musical as songs are skilfully used to advance time and portray the relationship between John and his family and friend far more emotively than could be achieved by dialogue alone. I’d be surprised if Rocketman doesn’t end up a Broadway musical.

Despite the hedonistic excess, the real heart of the film is the platonic love story between John and long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), a pair of musical geniuses thrown together by fate who navigate the perils of life, love and fame. Taupin has always seen John for who he really is, and his down-to-earth positive masculinity is the one stable influence in John’s turbulent life –it’s no wonder he spiralled out of control after Taupin decided to head back to England for a ‘normal’ life.

Even those who have no interest in John’s story will be able to appreciate the spectacle of this film. For fan of the man, myself included, it’s a welcome peek behind the curtain into the icon that shaped the soundtrack to our lives. 

Jessica’s verdict: 4/5

Nathan Torpey, Journalist

While I agree with my colleague Jessica’s astute take that Rocketman doesn’t stray far from the tried-and-true biopic formula, I found the result to be more to the film’s detriment as it was formulaic and favoured style over substance. 

Despite the number of sequins used to cover up this fact by way of musical numbers, the outcome is still an unsatisfying journey that never delves deep enough into the story behind the music. 

Key moments of Elton’s life were discarded as quickly as an off high note –his ex-fiancée was never mentioned and a four-year marriage to ex-wife Renate Blauel was given a mere 30 seconds of screen time which included the wedding and divorce.

While many may praise the fantastical musical scenes which, to the film’s credit, were acted and sang expertly, I found they had a profoundly negative impact on the film’s pacing and pulled the audience away from the story. 

It may simply be a case of the musical approach not being my cup of tea, but the sudden shift between musical numbers and heavily dramatic scenes were, in my opinion, jarring. 

In terms of character development, the supporting cast were more reminiscent of cardboard cut outs. There’s the emotionally distant father whose only notable feature was never giving his son a hug, the money hungry mother and the evil record label manager (yep, we have never seen those archetypes on screen before). 

Directed by Dexter Fletcher, who famously took over directorial duties from Bryan Singer on Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, much like its predecessor, soars off the back of a stellar performance by leading man Taron Egerton. 

Egerton, who pulls double duties in the film both singing and acting, is superb as Elton John in a role that will undoubtedly be compared to Rami Malek’s Oscar winning portrayal of Freddy Mercury. 

The other unsung hero of the film is costume designer Julian Day who magnificently recreated Elton’s eclectic onstage wardrobe, nailing everything from bedazzled baseball uniforms to devils and peacocks. 

Rocketman, while shiny on the surface and supporting an epic soundtrack, is a rather forgettable B-side outing saved only by Egerton’s performance. 

Nathan’s verdict: 2.5/5

Classification: MA15+

Director:

Dexter Fletcher

Cast:

Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Tate Donovan

If you like this, try:

Bohemian Rhapsody, Jersey Boys, Across the universe, The Runaways, I’m not there.

RACQ members can purchase an Adult eSaver double pass for $22

Valid for use until 30 June 2019 only. Must redeem both admissions in the same session