A bit of a backlog, but I wanted to get to this one since Rocketman is launching into US cinemas tomorrow! See what I did there?
Probably more background than you needed to read
Anyway, before I go too deep, a little context when it comes to me and biopics. In general, I tend to steer clear of them. My philosophy is a simple one – if it is a story based on actual events of a living subject (or someone who is/was adjacent to the subject, it will not be an accurate portrayal of that person. I guess that goes without saying, but I wanted to get that out there.
Now, that said, I am an unashamed Elton John fan. You can thank my dad and his constant replaying of John’s 1987 concert in Australia recorded to VHS for that one. But I digress. Sure, I have been a fan of his music for decades, but I have had only the vaguest insight into his life story aside from my knowledge of his birth name. This is mainly down to the fact that quite frankly, it didn’t matter to me that much.
Fast forward to 2019 and during more than one set of trailers I watched, I saw the one for Rocketman. I must admit, it piqued my interest. I left the teasers with the promise there being a fantastical journey in the life of the musical icon awaiting me. Almost then and there, I settled on the fact that, gosh darnit, I was gonna see it! And see it, I did.
What I Experienced
First things first. Rocketman is not a biopic in any conventional meaning of the word. Immediately, my initial reservation vanished into thin air. I can best describe the film as a full-on musical punctuated by some really dramatic and dare I say melancholic moments.
As I sat there, my focus rarely steered away from the screen. The anachronistic interweaving of the Taupin/John catalog of hits (recorded by the cast themselves) bookmarked key moments of John’s life. There was also the “confessional” framing device which jumps back and forth between the present-day of the film to the past. There is even the occasion, while in flashback, where the audience transitioned from one phase of life to the next. Personally the coolest use of this device was the sequence in which the young Reg moves closer to the persona (Elton) that many of us know and love (Song: “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”).
I will not spend time going over the minutia of the details of his life – you can go see the movie or probably conduct an Internet search to find that stuff out. But it looks to me that every major touchstone has been presented.
The Music and the Storytelling
When you stand back and look at it from an overall storytelling perspective it kind of works. Movies often present their subject’s life story in full flashback or in a linear fashion. But when you think about it, when anyone looks back and reflects on a lifetime of collected memories, this is the visual equivalent. So on that account, the structure was entertaining to watch and keep up with.
Even with all of singing and dancing on offer, I wanted Rocketman to be MORE over the top, (is that even possible?). Part of me thought, “you (the director, Dexter Fletcher) are doing the thing, so go ALL IN!” Maybe it’s just me but at moments, it felt a bit too conventional. On the other hand, it is likely Fletcher relied on this in order to confidently deliver the more emotionally fraught moments in the film.
As I alluded to a little earlier, the cast, led by Taron Egerton, sang all of the songs in the film. Which was cool, although it took me slightly aback at first. But then I decided to just go along for the ride. But as a fan, it is something to appreciate for sure. Additionally, as I told my friend post-screening, I never thought I needed Richard Madden singing “Honky Cat” in my life, but here we are.
In my final analysis, it is all about the music, baby. Being as this is one of the many soundtracks of my life, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see it on the big screen. So, if you are a fan of the man and his music, you will probably want to go and see it – and I am not going to tell you not to.