Rocketman (2019)

I’m not sure how to define Rocketman.

I was expecting a biopic with music, but got a musical with bits of a biopic here and there.

Sometimes it made sense, other times not, but what’s very clearly portrayed is that this is Sir Elton’s reflection on his own life.  As when anyone looks back, his reflection is hazy, non-chronological and, at times, cringe-worthy, but that’s life.  There are times that we remember as magic, times we remember as soul-crushing and times we don’t remember at all (the latter of which may have been a few more than average in Elton’s case due to his rampant cocaine use).  So it turns out the most unexpected thing in this “true fantasy” was how relatable I found this superstar: we’ve all had that moment when we’ve seen our younger self and wanted to cry.  Rocketman soars in that regard.

The movie came off as some sort of bizarre cross between Bohemian Rhapsody and Mama Mia, with songs selected at random times despite chronology to represent what John or whoever was feeling at the moment.  On the down side it was a little disorienting, but on the up side it was an original and fresh take on telling the same story we’ve all seen in a hundred different movies (i.e. humble prodigy becomes a star, discovers alcohol and drugs, loses their mind and then has some epiphany that helps ground them).  Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say there was anything in Elton John’s life that was generic.  His was apparently a fantasy world the likes of which only he could afford.  And oh my God, the wardrobe!  There’s not one thing in that movie I wouldn’t kill to have, even though I’d never have the courage to wear.

Whether or not you like the screenplay (for the record, I very much did), what you will almost certainly be blown away by is Taron Egerton’s performance.  I can hardly describe it as anything short of epic.  For starters, it’s truly unfair that someone can be that good looking and that talented at the same time.  I was so convinced that he couldn’t possibly be singing that I sat through the credits to see which numbers were credited as being performed by Egerton and, spoiler alert, his name is on almost all of them.  Incredible singing aside, his acting was also amazing.  He somehow at the same time portrayed Elton as immensely talented, yet filled with self-loathing; surrounded by tons of people, yet alone at his core; creatively fearless, but terrified of who he was; loved by millions, yet afraid of never being truly loved by anyone.  As I watched, all I wanted to do was go back in time, find this man, give him a hug and promise him the best things in his life were yet to come.

I always wondered why Elton John and Princess Diana were friends.  This movie didn’t go into their relationship at all, but I think I learned enough about his life to understand their connection.  Sometimes the most popular, beloved people are the ones who are the most afraid of being alone.  In that regard, the movie was heartbreaking but ultimately rewarding as we, the audience, were given the hope and inspiration of watching a man dead set on self-destruction pick himself up by his own sheer will and own who he really was.

A lot of people are going to whine about this movie not being factually accurate on any number of points.  That might be so, but what it may lack in facts, it makes up for in truth, making it a genuine goodbye to the Yellow Brick Road.

I’ve always liked Elton John’s music in a passive sort of way:  I didn’t change the station if he came on the radio and I loved The Lion King and Aida soundtracks.  But after seeing this I bought a greatest hits album.  His was a genius of a generation and whether or not this movie does that justice, it deserves to be celebrated.

I’m officially a fan (of the musician and the movie producer).


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