On second attempt, after the failure to purchase tickets and watching “Yesterday” instead two weeks ago, I not only managed to see “Rocketman” but also to drag #englishrosiee with! It was a good watch but nothing to write home about.
Let me start with admitting my ignorance: I don’t know what your perception of Elton John is but in my head he was always someone maybe my grandma would like. I only remembered his two songs “Circle of Life” and “Candle in the Wind” before watching the movie and honestly they’re not my cup of tea.
When I watched “Rocketman” and learnt that Sir Elton was not only a genius but also a naughty boy similar to Freddie Mercury I was pretty surprised. I also enjoyed the fact that the movie didn’t shy away from showing some of the less decent parts of John’s life, which was something that the whitewashed Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” completely avoided (fun fact: the two icon artists shared a manager, John Reid and were friends in real life).
“Rocketman” differs from most movies of this sort as it’s closer to a musical than to a realistic biographic movie. Elton John’s story is told by him sitting in a group therapy session aimed at treating his drug, alcohol and other problems. As you’d expect such recollections are not always reliable.
The movie links the real events and fiction to form a strong narrative as well as changes the chronological order of the events. In other words, you shouldn’t treat it as a source of factual knowledge about Elton John’s life. There are many fact-check articles about this movie around the web, if you’re a truth seeker.
If you can stomach the significant deviations from real life, you should have a good time watching this movie. It’s fast-paced, pleasant and people break into (mostly good) singing randomly. I did occasionally cringe at something that looked overly staged and had one uncontrollable burst of laughter but mostly everything is palatable.
I really enjoyed watching Taron Egerton as the lead. He’s not only visually similar to Elton John but turns out to be a really good actor. Another great choice was Richard Madden (anyone still remembers Robb Stark from GOT?) as his manager and lover John Reid. I almost had a short-lived crush on the on-screen villain!
I COMPLETELY couldn’t buy Jamie Bell as Elton’s best friend and his songwriter. His long hair looked odd and din’t match his face and there was just something off about his acting, which usually is superb. I also struggled with Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother. This performance also felt artificial to me. In fact, the two actors were responsible for a lot of my cringing during the movie.
My other criticism of the movie is the oversimplification of childhood issues people have in adult relationships and addiction treatment.
The Elton John in the movie grows up in a home with an overly strict father who never shows him any affection and an equally frigid mother who couldn’t care less about him. Things get even worse when his parents divorce and the only person who seems to care about him is his grandmother. With an upbringing pretty much lacking love and acceptance, Elton enters the world of adulthood, music and success unprepared to deal with it emotionally. It, of course, results in poor relationship choices (among other, he married a woman when he was already sure he was gay) and substance problems. No complaints here.
However, later on the movie tries to swiftly and fabulously turn Elton John from an everything addict and a person desperately looking for love in all the wrong places to someone who pretty much overnight got sober, found true love and became a homebody. I’d have really appreciated more realism there than showing that one therapy session full of talking back to bad people of one’s life completely turns your life around.
All in all, “Rocketman” is a pleasant enough entertainment with reasonably good music. If you don’t know much about Elton John, it may be interesting for you to find more about the artist.
Have you seen “Rocketman” yet? Do you like musical and movies about music? Do you feel inspired by stories of people who managed to sort themselves out despite a difficult childhood?