Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman is a flashy and fantastic musical biopic befitting an exquisitely eccentric icon. Taron Egerton stars as Sir Elton John, a British child prodigy who blossomed into the shopaholic piano sensation of global fame. Fletcher and Egerton are two-for-two counting their first collaboration, 2015’s Olympic skiing heartwarmer Eddie The Eagle, as Rocketman blasts into a stratosphere of quality past last year’s Oscar-winning Bohemian Rhapsody. Fletcher’s latest is loud and rambunctious and everything Elton would be proud of, showing what a true survivor looks like in the disco-reflective flesh.
Paramount will be rocking theaters everywhere when Rocketman releases on May 31st, a recommended watch for Elton John’s most sequined-out superfans to ordinary moviegoers in the mood for larger-than-life enchantment. Here are three rhinestone-encrusted reasons to catch the summer’s wildest biographical flamboyance in full view.
Lee Hall’s screenplay incorporates Elton’s battle with addiction and meteoric rise to rock stardom in seamless transitions set to thematically relevant singalong tracks. As a legend falls, so does he ascend. Maybe it’s while recognizing Elton’s dependency on longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), or bickering with manager and lover John Reid (Richard Madden), or stomaching another one of mother’s stony retorts (Sheila, played by Bryce Dallas Howard). Rocketman is about the love we deserve and the person we’re allowed to be. Words of compassion versus self-medicated escapes. A film as personal as Elton’s own deeply emotive stadium anthems.
1. Taron Egerton Can Do It All
Yes, that’s Taron Egerton singing Elton John’s catalog in Rocketman. No lip-synching. I’ve been applauding the Kingsman star ever since Eggsy saved the world, predicting his supermassive talents would soon unleash with grand spectacle. Egerton does it all – in platforms and cumbersome costumes no less – smoldering hotness through choreographed dances, stage-shaking energy, and Elton’s unique ambitious fire. Thinning hair and dental fixtures only physically transform, but Egerton more than rises to the challenge of owning another’s personality far beyond simple karaoke impressions.
The actor understands Elton’s complexities instilled from a young age, instructed not to be “soft” by his guarded father and discouraged by warped definitions of “love” all around. Egerton hits the high notes of “Pinball Wizard” and wins over skeptical audiences with “Crocodile Rock,” but also connects with Elton’s destructive lows. The pills, the emptiness, the constant attention-seeking ploys. We first meet Elton as he’s marching into rehab still wearing an orange-bright winged demon getup meant for a Madison Square Garden concert, and it’s the perfect introduction. Egerton plops down in a folding chair, shimmering horns and all, then immediately begins recalling the pains corrupting his character’s psyche. Ever the showman, deeply troubled and desperate for compassion. Taron Egerton, take a bow.
2. Come For The Dazzling Show…
Fletcher’s vision for Rocketman borderlines fantasy and reality, as Egerton’s musical numbers remove Elton from on-screen scenarios while he walks through a party unnoticed or steps away from another awkward family dinner. Lyrics replace dialogue and songs double as storytelling. Bernie may have been supplying Elton’s words, but Fletcher’s allowance of Elton’s performances to replace narrative structure highlights the singer’s aching cries through perceived entertainment. A recontextualization of these moving composed journeys laid atop Elton’s actual life, transcending song into biography. Passion and rawness were (still are) always his signatures. Why write somber dialogue when Elton’s own songs already sang it best?
Then you have the more uptempo party anthem scenes, be it Elton’s literal elevating of an entire crowd during his Troubadour debut (Tate Donovan kills as LA-loopy owner Doug Weston) to his dreamlike jet-propulsion liftoff during “Rocket Man.” Fletcher’s focus on showmanship punches into overdrive when excitement is needed, pointing to “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” and a choreographed fight-dance-jive through nighttime carnival grounds. Hordes of backup dancers, Egerton losing himself in Elton’s skin, glammed-up commitment to brazen fashions from the sparkly Dodgers uniform to regal queen antique to the biggest feathered headdresses available – Rocketman honors Elton’s pageantry and peacock’ed confidence in style throughout.
3. …Stay For The Behind The Scenes Pass
It’s a running joke these days that musical biopics post Walk Hard: A Dewey Cox Story learned nothing from Jake Kasdan’s satirical musical mockupic, but Rocketman avoids such shame. Don’t get me wrong, the schmaltz, hardships, and hardcore partying are there. When Elton comes out to his mother, she utters a line along the lines of, “You’re choosing a life of never being loved properly.” It’s the unavoidable ups and downs of limitless celebrity tumultuousness, conflict-based where drama and pacing are concerned.
Rocketman avoids feeling rigid and dress-up fake like Bohemian Rhapsody, or, more recently, The Dirt. The way Hall’s script and Fletcher’s direction weaves Elton’s confession of major lifelong milestones to his rehab group with “flashback” – or real-time – events keeps pacing surging forward. Egerton’s becoming Elton John leaves no characterization unturned. Fancy footwork, furious outbursts, and one man’s narcotics-heavy downward spiral make for a glorious rebirth, fully embracing Elton’s sexuality and sincerity on-screen. A splashy picture of professional calamity that peels back Elton’s rainbow layers to uncover the wounded man underneath, acted so finely by a skyrocketing young actor whose projects will only become more noteworthy. Rocketman‘s fuse never flickers out, kicking summer’s cinematic slate off with a chic-and-excitable blast.