I am going I am going to do my best to avoid comparing the new musical biopic, Rocketman, to last year’s monster hit, Bohemian Rhapsody, despite there being a ton of comparisons that could be made.
For example, the director of Rocketman was Dexter Fletcher, who was the director who came onto Bohemian Rhapsody to help finish the movie up as an uncredited director after Bryan Singer’s public problems forced him off the project.
Secondly, both biopics focus on British rock stars around the same era that dealt with similar issues, such as substance abuse and sexual orientation.
Third, both films feature transcendent lead performances from their actors, Taron Egerton as Elton John and Oscar winner Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury.
Both films freely use their subjects’ music to improve the movie and…
Oh, I guess I did not succeed in not comparing Rocketman to Bohemian Rhapsody. Fact is that, despite some similarities, Rocketman is actually very different than other music biopics.
This movie is truly a musical, not just a performance film. You have Elton John songs used to further the story and other characters participating in the songs and the intricate dance routines. I did not expect that as it did not seem that this was portrayed that way by any of the promotional materials. I wondered how I was going to feel about that but I got past it quickly.
The movie also had scenes that were not the literal translation of what happened but we’re meant to show more of a fantasy, dream-like state. Rocketman was much more of a musical fantasy than any other musical biopic that I can ever remember seeing.
Taron Egerton was spectacular as the often flamboyant but deeply troubled Reggie Dwight, who would change his name to Elton John. The film does not shy away from the troubling aspects of Elton John’s life and deals with the topics in an original and engaging manner, and Egerton provides a stellar performance throughout the film, even going as far as recording the Elton John songs himself. He never feels as if he were doing an imitation of Elton and, instead, feels as if he had just become the singer.
Jamie Bell has a remarkable supporting performance as Elton’s long time song writing partner, Bernie Taupin. Fate brought them together as Bernie would write the lyrics and Elton would provide the music and the tunes.
Bryce Dallas Howard has an amazing role too as Elton’s birth mother Sheila. Elton’s childhood is handled with some powerful scenes as we see how the lack of love from his parents shaped the man that he would become. Howard loses herself in the role and I did not even realize that it was her until the credits at the movie’s end.
While some of the story beats are similar to other music biopics, the manner in which the story is presented is as clever and original as it could be. Just when you think you are heading into tropes of the genre, Rocketman turns them upside down.
Rocketman is very different than Bohemian Rhapsody, so do not go to it expecting the same type of tone or film making experience. However, the music is great and the performances are above the line. If you are an Elton John fan, you will love Rocketman, but I do not think it is a requirement to enjoy this musical fantasy.