I left my viewing of “Rocketman” smiling ear to ear.
For the last few months Ive been watching many amazing movies; old and new. But I had come realize over the last few weeks, that a great number of them were either incredibly DARK or ended on slightly nihilistic note. Theres nothing at all wrong with a film that deals with morally bankrupt charterers, in fact some of my favorite films include : Reservoir Dogs, American Beauty, The Master, etc.
But to be blunt. Some of the best films Ive ever seen, are kinda downers.
Rocketman changes that tune ( pun intended), by being great biopic that, while not shying away from the darkest parts of Sir Elton Johns early life ( sex,drugs and Rock n Roll), it doesn’t wallow in darkness or cynicism. Instead it chooses to focus on a story of perseverance, neglectful childhoods , and most importantly, finding self-worth in a truly toxic environment.
The film opens with Elton John (played by Taron Egort) dressed in a bright orange devil suit storming down a corridor. As the song “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” plays, we come to find out that Elton is not rushing to perform to adoring fans, but instead has come to rehab center to seek help and explain the events of his life that have led to this very moment. As Elton tells his story, he also physically relives it, with the musical number “The Bitch is Back” taking him back to his childhood.
From there we experience the fantasy-like odyssey that is Elton’s life. Beginning with him discovering his close-to-genius talent with the piano, while dealing with his callous and unloving parents, who seem to see him as an annoyance. Then we go onto his start into pop stardom; meeting his longtime collaborator and friend Bernie Taupin, being discovered by a label and impressing American audiences with his voice and showmanship. Things seem to be going well for Elton.
However with all this success is going on, we truly see and feel how lonely Elton is through all of this. Struggling with sexual identity, afraid to open himself to anyone except his friend Bernie, who is immeadiatly accepting of his friends struggles. Coupled with the baggage of having horrible parents and only feeling genuine from a very small group of people, the film portrays Elton John as figure constantly seeking approval and love, while also becoming more and more flamboyant with his costumes. As his success increases, so does his insecurity and reliance on drugs and alcohol. This is all further stressed by the arrival of John Reid, who becomes Elton’s manager and lover. On the service John is suave and intelligent, but as time goes on we see how truly manipulative and emotionally damaging he really is.
Remember when I said this movie wasn’t depressing?
However through all these trials and traumatic emotional episodes, Rocketman tells a story of redemption and self-care. The classic theme that “all that glitters is not gold”, is used exceptionally well here and that before seeking love and approval from other people, one must first love themselves. All of this beautifully told through great musical numbers, my favorites being “Honkey Cat” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road“. All of actors seem to be loving their roles and play their parts with humor and emotional weight.
The film isn’t perfect though. Some of the writing is VERY corny ,a little too on the nose , and it doesn’t help the story starts to drag near the end. Also, while the movie doesn’t shy away from the problematic parts of Elton Johns personality, It still felt like some punches were pulled in reference to Elton infamous anger issues and temper tantrums. If the film was any more hokey, it might feel like a vanity project.
But what truly makes Rocketman special is its never-say-die attitude and optimism, combined with breathtaking cinematography and documentary-level eye for detail; with all of Elton’s famous stage costumes and mannerisms captured on screen.
I had a blast watching Rocketman. This biopic is a hyperactive musical that’s brimming with life and tongue-in-cheek creativity, that also doesn’t try to look away from or censor some of the darker and explicit aspects of the aging Pop-stars life.