Film Review: Rocketman (2019)

Rocketman hits every note and is certainly striking a chord on a global scale. Taron Egerton’s portrayal of the talented yet tortured music legend seems to have captivated critics and audiences alike; garnering a high 80’s on Rotten Tomatoes for each! Seeing all the hype, I took a trip to the (surprisingly empty) cinema to check it out. Do I think it holds up?

Rocketman takes you on a musical tour through the hectic story of Elton John packed into a two hour run time. From his childhood days as an orchestra pianist to the knighted icon we see today, Rocketman definitely hooks you in and doesn’t let go. I would say that the film delivered on its promise of high-octane musical numbers with thoughtful and truthful depictions of Sir Elton.

Going into this film, I’m not an avid fan but I’m pretty familiar with most of Elton’s music. What surprised me was how understated the film’s opening was. Sure, it was followed pretty soon after by the bombastic musical number I expected (and loved). But, Rocketman made sure its audience knew that the film wasn’t going to glorify or skip past portions of Elton John’s life that were not so pretty.

It’s no mystery to the world that Elton John made some questionable decisions in his private life that made themselves apparent and impacted his career in one way or another. At various points in his life, he’s been an alcoholic, cocaine addict and a sex addict just to name a few and it’s important that Rocketman didn’t shy away from these topics! Given it’s 15+ rating here in the UK, I didn’t expect much but the crew pushed that rating pretty far, in my eyes.

This could’ve easily been 18+, given the source material, but I’m glad its themes of homosexuality and drug misuse weren’t too gratuitous. I’ve heard opinions that they didn’t go far enough but I have to disagree. I think Rocketman’s portrayal of the darker side of stardom went far enough to seem real while staying restrained as to not result in a redundant orgy-fest.

The film utilities Elton John’s “larger than life” stage persona to produce some of the most vibrant and energetic set-pieces I’ve seen. Dexter Fletcher (having worked with Egerton prior on Eddie the Eagle) has proven to be a remarkable director with an eye for colour and lighting. From the set and costume designers to the exquisite acting all-round, the musical format enables a film utterly filled with memorable scenes.

Whether this be for bad or good, due to its release time, Rocketman is inevitably going to be compared to the Oscar Award Winner: Bohemian Rhapsody. For what it’s worth, on a technical level, Rocketman blows its competition out of the water.

One gripe I had with the film was that its ending felt incredibly rushed to me. Not to say it wasn’t satisfying, the concluding sequence is fantastic. It just kind of, ended. Now that I think about it, the pacing of the whole final act felt somewhat underwhelming. We’re given some of the most engaging musical numbers and emotional beats for an hour and a half and then it just kind of winds down into nothing.

I understand that it’s difficult to conclude a story compared to Bohemian Rhapsody where its key that Freddie Mercury passes away – Rocketman of course doesn’t have that option. I, personally, didn’t feel like I came out of a complete narrative with an emotional release but more like a collection of incredibly well made performance sequences and a compilation of Egerton’s acting abilities.

All in all, Rocketman kept me excited and emotionally invested until it felt slightly rough around the edges in its conclusion. One of the most visually striking films of the year, Rocketman takes its musical elements in its stride to snapshot a life of fame and fortune that rarely ever feels like one.

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