Rocketman is a delightful ballad of Elton John that fulfills expectations by sticking close to the rules. Screenwriter Lee Hall of Billy Elliot shifts reality into feeling. The famous musician’s life is reorganized into thematic stints that soar under the banners of John’s countless hit songs. Although the movie never quite reaches the compelling momentum of the rival Bohemian Rhapsody, the audience can still expect a certain freeness and sheer energy propelled by its jukebox musical status.
Director Dexter Fletcher excels and exhibits unmistakable bright spots within the film that seize the focus of anyone watching. The high flying ear-worm “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” is laid out in a brilliant tracking shot that smooths the transition into John’s adult life. The birth of “Your Song” is another formative moment that overcomes apparent fabrication and instills spontaneity within the narrative.
Highlights of the film can be found first and foremost in the performances of the cast. Taron Egerton acts his heart out in this role and communicates the true depth of John’s feeling in each scene and song — in which his tremendous voice exceeds expectations. Jamie Bell (Bernie Taupin) adds in a superb performance and complements Egerton well. Additionally, Richard Madden departs from his previous acting experience and completes a dynamic performance as John’s love interest (John Reid).
Only a handful of scenes stick out as strained sore thumbs. Elton John’s 1990 venture to rehab can be seen as a painful and brusque technique. In John’s difficult childhood, his parents are skin-deep and his memories deserving of much more screentime. The placement of “Tiny Dancer” appears unfounded and is lackluster in its effect. These moments combine to create an unsettling artificial undertone. The very invention of the name “Elton John” is another one of these disappointing moments.
The direction of the story can be seen from a mile away. Still, this does not detract from the enjoyability of the film. While the audience may turn their heads in dismay at John’s downward spiral into addiction and the failure of celebrity, the journey of the central character is entrancing due to the fantastic foundation of the first hour.
John’s exploitative relationship with Reid is appropriately staged in that their sex scenes are incisive and far apart. The rebirth of the Taupin songs like “Bennie and the Jets” are a surprising touch that exhibit Fletcher’s creative framing, yet the mention of such good decisions is also harmed by the brevity of said numbers. Rocketman leaves you wanting more music. Especially during “Rocket Man,” played while John sinks to the bottom of his pool.
In the end, Rocketman serves as a fresh taste in the cavalcade of biopic movies. The film stays true to the flashiness of Elton John, while anchoring itself in emotion. Although much of the story focuses on what happens around John, the viewer can’t help but dance, laugh and cry along in his dazzling costumes. Like Elton John, you have to sing your way through it.