Movie Review: “Rocketman”

Cinematic adaption of Elton John passes with flying colors

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It’s 1975 in Los Angelos, and Elton John comes out from behind a curtain wearing a bedazzled L.A. Dodgers uniform. It is amazing, the height of his career. But, there are other things going on behind the scenes in his life. This scene shows how he is hiding things from his many fans. This is how the movie “Rocketman” shines: showing Elton’s struggle to keep fame and his personal life together.
In 2019, Dexter Fletcher put out Rocketman, distributed by Paramount Pictures, about the life of Elton John. It starred Taron Egerton as John and was marketed as “Taron Egerton is Elton John” as Taron very much embodies the beloved singer.
The movie was made with the guidance of Sir Elton Hercules John. Yes, that is his middle name. John didn’t restrict Fletcher in what he was going to show and tell in the story. And there are many unrestricted parts. John also had a lot of source material since, well, it is his life. John stated that this was a “Musical Fantasy” and not a full-on documentary.
Rather, it is a retelling of his life that adds details of whimsical parts of his life to enhance the story. This does make for a better story but does not make it a perfect retelling, which is why it is marketed as a “fantasy.”
The musical aspect is what drives the movie forward the most. “Rocketman” uses John’s songs to move the story in a way that is unexpected. It uses the lyrics as lines for the actors at some points, and at other times the music shows the emotions of the characters. Sometimes it is just background noise when the viewer is supposed to be more focused on what is happening on screen.
What is even better about John’s music in “Rocketman” is the fact that Egerton sings all the songs.
He puts a new and fresh voice on the music from the ‘70s and ‘80s. In fact, John only performs one song in the entire movie, which is an original song that plays during the credits, called “I’m Gonna Love (Me Again).” This song suggests John has come to terms with himself and is going to love himself as he did when he was younger.
Music in a movie is very important because it can translate what a character is experiencing through sound. This helps in every movie to better explain the emotions and feelings that one cannot understand just by seeing someone cry. Hearing the sad music makes the viewer sad as well and connects them with the character better.
The soundtrack is not the only thing that makes the viewer feel emotion. There are multiple scenes in the movie where the camera slows down and gives a big, momentous, slow motion shot of what is happening, signaling to the viewer that something big is coming.
When John performs at the Troubadour, a famous club that many musicians played at, and sings “Crocodile Rock,” the feeling of importance and momentous occasion are at their greatest. When John walks on the stage and time slows down, the shot is stating how important this moment is. Then John starts singing and everybody floats, as if everyone rose and was flying.
The movie does an extraordinary job handling the struggles of John’s life and the way he copes with his downfalls. There is a scene where John is taking illegal drugs and the lights are bright and spinning and the camera is circling him and playing flashbacks.
It is a very euphoric experience that really captures what was happening to him, how the drug was affecting his perception of reality and how others saw him when he was under the influence.
John struggled with drugs, his family, anger and most importantly his sexuality.
His sexuality plays a big part in his life and his actions. He struggles to stay with his love even when doing so seems hopeless. His manager/lover says he loves him one day, then he turns around and is only in it for the money and not the love as John had thought.
Since the film was set in the ‘70s and ‘80s, homosexuality was not as accepted as it is today. John had to partially hide it, and this was hard for him.
John’s wacky costumes help him to express himself and in turn light up the screen, whether it be the bedazzled Dodgers uniform or an English queen costume. The costume department of “Rocketman” did an amazing job. It is a shame most of the extravagant costumes are only seen on screen for less than a minute each.
This film really chose the right actors for the job. Egerton has been in other movies such as the “Kingsmen” franchise, and he is a great actor who really embodies the character. Egerton makes me feel like he is Elton John. He makes the viewer feel sad or happy at the right times, like every decision he makes is his own and not written in a script.
Even though Lee Hall wrote the film, it is very evident that Elton John gave him everything he needed to know.
John was heavily involved with the production of the film, even stating that he has been trying to make a movie based on his life for the past twenty years. John was the executive producer of the film and his husband, David Furnish, was a producer as well.
Egerton very much makes the viewer feel as though he is Elton. When he is in love, you can tell; when he is angry, you can tell; when he is happy or excited, it is easy to tell. There is one scene where John is looking at his lover, and John’s eyes dart around his lover’s face, showing how much he loves him. Elton also gets very angry, throwing a glass bottle at someone as they are leaving the room.
Egerton is an extraordinary actor. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he graduated with an acting degree in 2012.
Dexter Fletcher also had experience working on a film like “Rocketman;” he completed “Bohemian Rhapsody” after director Brian Singer left, but since the film was already mostly complete, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was credited as directed by Singer with Fletcher being an executive producer. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was about the life of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen.
Fletcher also had experience working with Egerton when directing the 2016 film “Eddie the Eagle” where Egerton plays the skier Michael “Eddie” Edwards. “Eddie the Eagle” is a film about an Olympic athlete who is cast out from their country and travels to Germany to get better at ski jumping.
“Rocketman” received many nominations and awards. It received 26 nominations from Best Motion Picture at the Golden Globes and Best Actor in a Leading Role at the British Academy Film Awards to Best Costume Design at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. It did garner 16 wins across multiple awards including Best Original Song at the Academy Awards for “I’m Gonna Love (Me Again).”
I remember walking into the theater knowing next to nothing about Elton John but walking out absolutely loving this movie. The only thing I knew about John was that he sang “Crocodile Rock.” I did not know anything about his addictions or his love life. I was just genuinely interested in seeing what the life of the person that wrote “Crocodile Rock” was like. I feel like there is something in this film that everyone can walk away with.
Movie Review Score: 9.7/10
It had great acting (Egerton really stole the show), a very talented and experienced director, and a great and redeeming story. Rocketman can be found on Hulu.