WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
The story of Elton John’s life, from his years as a prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music through his influential and enduring musical partnership with Bernie Taupin.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
It’s only right that one of the most flamboyant singers of our time has an equally dazzling biopic to match. And Rocketman isn’t just a biopic - it’s a psychedelic musical extravaganza rooted in the dark realities of Elton John’s life, yet is open about the parts where real-life events have been tweaked for entertainment - much like his actual life. What makes this biopic even more interesting is that the entertainer himself was very much involved in the production. Elton and his husband, David Furnish have been trying for years to get the film made. Luckily, all the hard work paid off in the form of Taron Egerton - a phenomenal young actor with a voice to match Elton’s, and proving yet again that Hollywood musicals should instead focus on casting those who can actually sing rather than for star power.
Rocketman follows Elton’s life from his childhood to his days at the Royal Academy of Music to his lifelong musical friendship with his songwriter Bernie Taupin - and all the drama in-between.
The comparison between Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman will be inevitable - two biopics coming out in the same year about two gay musical legends - but in the end, they are two completely different films that might even stand in separate genres. Whereas Bohemian Rhapsody was more of a traditional biopic using Queen’s songs as they are recreating famous stage performances, Rocketman is filled with a cast boasting impressive pipes re-performing Elton’s songs as musical numbers. Reality is twisted like everything was shot from the singer’s drug-fuelled brain, and perhaps that’s how he saw his life.
Egerton, from Kingsman fame, truly embodies the spirit of Elton, obviously benefitting immensely from having the man himself involved in the film. His charisma, wit and ability to drag the audience into his emotional dance with destruction were almost profound. You know an actor has delivered when you can’t imagine anyone else playing the same role.
But credit should also be given to the young Matthew Illesley, a nine-year-old who plays Elton’s young self as Reggie - before the fame and fortune. He’s an absolute treasure and matched Egerton’s powerful vocals note for note. For someone so young he has a very polished, stage-trained style of acting, but throws in a little cheek to give the character some edges. The same can be said for the slightly older Reggie, played by Kit Connor, who continues with the vooma set by Illesley until finally, Egerton takes over. Jamie Bell is also a delight as Taupin, although his role is more toned down compared to Elton, acting as an anchor not only for him in real life but for the audience as well as they go on this wild ride.
In the end, I felt like Rocketman might have delivered a stronger music film than Bohemian Rhapsody, fully embracing the intense colours, extravagance and queerness (in all definitions) of a man that struggled with his identity his entire life. Even if you’re not an Elton fan (which are few and far between), this is a film for those who love the reality-bending nature of musicals, especially when life can sometimes be a little too black and white.