Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Movie Review: "Rocketman" (2019)

Rocketman 2019 movie poster
Image Source
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute

The life story of world-renowned pianist, singer, and rock star Elton John.

Jamie Bell and Taron Egerton as Bernie Taupin and Elton John in the movie biopic "Rocketman"
"Life gives you very few chances, Reggie, and this is one of yours." (Image Source)
For a man as extraordinary as Elton John, we should never expect just another ordinary biopic. "Rocketman" is directed by Dexter Fletcher, who started his career as a character actor before making movies like "Sunshine of Leith" and "Eddie the Eagle." He is also the uncredited director that was brought in to finish principal photography and post-production of the Oscar-nominated 2018 musical biopic "Bo Rhap" after he-who-shall-not-be-named was fired from the project. It is written by Lee Hall and tells the life story of famed rock star Reginald Dwight, a.k.a. Elton Hercules John (Taron Egerton) from his youth growing up in a tumultuous home with an emotionally repressed father (Steven Mackintosh) and an unsupportive mother (Bryce Dallas Howard), through his early struggles, his rise to stardom, and his eventual grappling with fame, alcohol, and drugs.
Taron Egerton sings and plays piano at a concert with a feathery white outfit in Dexter Fletcher's biographical film Rocketman
"It's time to do something bold, Elton." (Image Source)
Biopics are frequently very middle of the road. They often shy away from the past misgivings of their subjects to make them look better than they actually were. A lot of the time, those types of biopics are plain ol' boring. Those expecting "Rocketman" to be just your average biography may be disappointed because this is anything but. This is a movie that tells the story of Elton John with the Spanx off, letting it all hang out in its dramatic glory right down to the nitty-gritty. Director Dexter Fletcher takes a slightly different approach by turning Elton John's life into a full-blown musical spectacle full of grandiose but true-to-life costumes, epic fantasy sequences, and so much blow that it's crazy. Fletcher uses John's existing song catalog to tell the narrative and to convey the emotion of what each era of his life was like. It's quite remarkable how well Fletcher and writer Lee Hall were able to match Elton's tunes to the story of his life. Many of these numbers are fantastical in nature and show Elton defying gravity and literally blasting off like a rocket. There are also numerous visual exaggerations that capture the spirit of a massive moment in time expressed in just a few short seconds of screentime. For us, these elements are what made "Rocketman" a wondrous spectacle that we very much enjoyed watching.

Even without these components, this film is worth seeing for Taron Egerton's performance alone. Ever since he burst on the scene in 2014, we knew Egerton was going to be something special, and this film solidifies that notion in our heads, not that there was ever any doubt. He is utterly fantastic as Elton John. It's not just the way he acts, but the way he looks, his mannerisms, and his singing voice, too. Egerton is such a pitch-perfect casting choice, in fact, that there were times we thought Fletcher pulled a fast one and supplanted images of Taron with the real Elton John. It's that close. When he sang "I'm Still Standing" in the movie "Sing" a few years ago, we had a hunch we'd be hearing him sing on film again at some point, and boy can he belt out a tune! Egerton manages to capture John's essence in each and every second he is on the screen. He is the complete package, and we cannot imagine this film without him. Many of the other actors give great performances as well, including Jamie Bell as John's supportive songwriter and friend Bernie Taupin, and Richard Madden as John's lover and (eventually smarmy) manager John Reid.
Taron Egerton in a fabulous purple robe as Elton John, Bryce Dallas Howard as his mother Sheila, and Richard Madden in a business suit as John Reid in the movie Rocketman
"It's never going to last." (Image Source)
Dexter Fletcher has created something fantastical and tremendous with "Rocketman." We hope to see recognition thrown its way come awards season, especially for Taron Egerton's transformative performance.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.7/10
RT Rating: ~90%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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