Following last year’s crowd-pleasing and Academy Award winning Queen Biopic Bohemian Rhapsody brought new life to the genre, our attention now turns to another UK musical legend – Elton John. Following the rise to fame of Reginald Dwight, known to most by his stage name Elton John, Rocketman is filled with toe-tapping musical numbers, but also isn’t afraid to dig deeper into the singer’s personal life. Detailing his troubled relationship with his parents, his difficult love life and his misuse of alcohol and drugs, this is a rare musical which doesn’t hold back, and is all the better for it. Whilst Bohemian was very family-friendly, Rocketman is strictly for adults.
The film simply does not work without an electrifying central performance from Taron Egerton (Known to most as the star of the Kingsman Franchise). Egerton transforms into the role and gives it everything he’s got, nailing the look and persona of Elton flawlessly. He also sings every song himself, something not even Rami Malek did in his Oscar winning performance as Freddie Mercury. Egerton brings the film much needed energy and emotional layers and is easily one of the best performances of the year so far.
The supporting cast are also all fantastic, especially Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as John’s long-time friend and songwriter Bernie Taupin. Bell delivers a charming and likeable turn and his friendship with Egerton feels real and true. Richard Madden (The Bodyguard) and Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World) also shine in small but important roles whilst Stephen Graham (This is England) steals every scene he is in as Studio head Dick James, providing many of the films best laughs.
Rocketman is directed by Dexter Fletcher who was hired, fired and then re-hired to complete the aforementioned Bohemian Rhapsody, and he does a wonderful job here. His shot selection and use of imagery is gorgeous and the way he rotates between younger and older Elton is nicely handled. He has created a number of magical and psychedelic sequences which showcase the sense of how Elton saw the world.
The only problem I had with the film was that whilst screenwriter Lee Hall (War Horse) has produced a smart and sweet script, it can at times feel awfully generic and it very rarely shies away from cliché. I also struggled with how cheesy the film can become, with some moments in particular feeling slightly cringe-worthy.
The comparisons with Bohemian Rhapsody are expected, and whilst both films are great, I do believe Rocketman is the better film. Nothing in Rocketman in truth comes close to Rhapsody’s stunning Live Aid performance, but Rocketman is far less conventional and a better made movie overall. Whether you’re a fan of the legendary pop icon or not, this is a thoroughly entertaining and ambitious telling of Elton John’s life story.
Verdict: Anchored by strong performances and directing, Rocketman is colourful, outrageous and heartfelt, just like the man who inspired it.
Best Moment: Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting