While your mum’s favourite film of last year was Bohemian Rhapsody, I must say it was one of my least. Therefore going into Rocketman, I felt a certain sense of dread. While I love queen, my reaction to Elton is more lukewarm. I like Rocketman and Tiny Dancer and I love your song. But he’s not Freddie. So was Rocketman better than BoRhap?
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words.
Well, the quick answer is yes. The biggest difference between Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody is that Rocketman is a musical. The songs are integrated within the story unlike Bohemian Rhapsody which was a biopic with songs in. This lends more flow to the story as music is often used to transition between periods in Elton’s life. At first this is odd. As we are told of Elton’s childhood, we get out first musical number dancing with his neighbours in an overcast street to “The Bitch is Back”. While usually effective, some do feel forced in and there isn’t quite enough final variety within Elton’s songs to always match the moods portrayed.
The setting for the film is a rehab center. Elton (Taron Egerton) has admitted himself saying he wants help for his addictions to drink, drugs and everything else. It’s a very harrowing look at where he has come, with a stark contrast against his colourful parties in his flashbacks. The story is well put together and you actually want to watch it unlike BR where you were just waiting for the next song.
The biggest kick I ever got
The performances all pack a punch to. Egerton as Elton leads the film brilliantly. Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mum shows a distanced subtle performance. Jamie Stone offers a trademark likable performance as Bennie and Richard Madden (Ma’am) steals the show with a chilling portrayal as Elton’s boyfriend turned evil manager John. The fact that they all sing themselves makes everything more impressive. Egerton’s vocals and piano playing are a particular highlight which add a level of authenticity to the performance.
As a musical film it has every cliché to boot. The evil manager, the fallouts, the addictions and the “everything I needed was here all along” moments. It’s nothing new but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. The film also deals with some difficult issues very well. Some scenes feel repeated as we watch Elton seemingly unable to escape from his rut.
And I thinks it’s gonna be a long long time
The biggest issue I had which nagged me throughout the film was almost greater than the film itself. Elton’s issues all came from overindulgence in some form, whether an excess of drugs or alcohol all hidden behind a lot of glamour. The film is meant to show how he got over this, but the fact that he commissioned, and no doubt influenced the style in which the film was made sits weirdly. As such, the film felt in direct contrast to its message. If this film were made later on as a tribute to him, it would feel more poignant, but in the meantime if feels a self-high-five.
The end felt a bit shallow and pretentious. While Elton comes to peace with his demons, it all feels a bit artsy and quick. There is some nice symbolism but it would have been nice if they had spent a bit more time with him repairing his fragile relationships.
Despite a feeling of self-indulgence from Elton, this film is what we all wanted when Bohemian Rhapsody was released. There were stellar performances throughout and the film deals with Elton’s issues well. With a Richard Madden, Taron Egerton sex scene to boot, this will be your mum’s favourite film of the year. [Grade: B-]