In Brief: This Elton John biopic may not be a masterpiece but it’s damned good.
Rocketman takes old, stale songs from an old, stale rocker and makes them and him fresh again. Rarely do I say all mature — emphasis on mature — people ought to take the time to see a film.
See this one.
Elton John is one of the producers of his own biopic. He wanted it done and is the power behind the production. Rocketman is his life dramatically — and sometimes comically — shown through the music and lyrics of his and lyricist Bernie Taupin’s songs.
I’m an early Elton John fan. I loved his music up through his album Honky Chateau. From there forward, John fell in love with long, overdubbed choruses, and in Hey Jude-like fashion proceeded to bore me — and a lot of us — to tears. Fat, drunk and drugged, John’s music went from fresh and rocking to ponderous. His outrageous on-stage outfits were often blinding, and his over-produced concerts turned him from a brilliant rocker into a cliche and a mid-1970s version of Vegas Elvis.
The movie tells you why.
Director Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) and screenwriter Lee Hall (Victoria & Abdul, Billy Elliot, War Horse) put the songs together in a way that tell you what made John tick until he got sober 29 years ago.
Rocketman looks more like a broadway musical than a movie. At first, it made me cringe. I’m not a fan and musicals like this don’t usually work. Most are overloaded with glitzy dance scenes and are just too flamboyant. However, considering John’s penchant for everything outrageous, the movie is kind of tame.
In fact, nothing about this movie is tame. It’s why it works so well. Fletcher gives you a wonderfully edited story that is loaded with very clever music sequences, sets and excellent performances.
Taron Egerton (the Kingsman movies, Robin Hood) plays John. Billy Elliot and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’s Jaime Bell gets the nod as Taupin. Bryce Dallas Howard grabs a surprisingly good Cockney accent and plays John’s mom. Gemma Jones steals all of the movie’s early scenes and plays John’s grandmother Ivy.
My favorite scene in the movie is when mom, grandma and Taupin first hear Your Song. The look on Jones’ face said it all and it is at that point that I fell in love with Rocketman. And if you haven’t, you will then.
It also is very hard not to be absolutely blown away by Egerton’s performance. He does all of his own singing and sometimes if you shut your eyes, what you hear is Elton John. In some spots in the movie Egerton looks so much like the singer that you almost swear it’s John and not the actor.
Good stuff and a film that rocks at all levels.
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Stars: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Madden, Gemma Jones, Tate Donovan
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time, ’till touch down brings me round again to find … another musical as much fun as Rocketman. Give this one the friendliest Friday Flicks rating at 5 on the 0 to 5 scale.
Click here for theaters and show times.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.