I know enough Elton John music to get by. I bought his “Greatest Hits” collection back when I had Columbia House Music membership (Google it, kids) and needed to round out my monthly purchase. 3 CDs worth of music, all the classics. But I didn’t know much about him as a human being, apart from the fact that he was gay and liked wild costumes. I knew he had a writing partner but didn’t know how that partnership really worked. I had seen him guest star on The Muppet Show and he fit right in.
What made me want to watch Rocketman was the trailer, which made it clear this wasn’t going to be as straight forward a biopic as the previous year’s Bohemian Rhapsody. People are singing and dancing in the street – a very stage musical vibe.
The movie did not disappoint. It is non-linear, starting us off with Elton walking into a rehab meeting in full concert regalia, flaming reds and oranges, looking a little like a deranged rooster. Then the story flips to his childhood and we see young Reggie Dwight and his relationship with his parents. The film continues this way, flipping between a “present day” (well 80s) Elton and past Elton. And in both timelines, you watch him go through a transformation, finally ending up the best version of Elton John.
What I really enjoyed about this movie, what I think pushed it over the top, was that Taron Egerton, who plays Elton John, not only BECOMES Elton physically, but he SINGS the songs. The songs were recorded for the movie, rewritten for the film, again feeling more like a Broadway musical than just a generic biopic. The soundtrack for this is fantastic. All those greatest hits I know and love, but sung by Egerton and changed to fit the mood of the story. The moment I knew I was in love with this film was his performance of ‘Crocodile Rock’ and when his feet float off the stage as the entire audience is pulling into the power of Elton John. It was so theatrical and wonderful and I knew this movie was something I could enjoy over and over.
Elton John was a producer on the film, so I am assuming he had final say on the script and what parts of his life were exposed, but I think it is a very honest portrayal. He doesn’t come off as perfect, but he also gets some hard hands dealt to him when it comes to relationships. Clearly confident in his music, but inside he is never quite confident in himself and leaves himself vulnerable.
I thought I would like this movie well enough but I ended up LOVING it. I have listened to the soundtrack multiple times and I’m honestly contemplating buying the film. Is it high art? No, but it is a LOT of fun visually (the costume designer went to great lengths to match all of John’s outrageous stage outfits over the years) and there isn’t much downtime between tunes. And the ending leaves you feeling good.