Rocketman, the shiny but conventional film about Elton John

Julian Liurette

Julian Liurette

Read Julian Liurette's review of Rocketman, the biopic on Elton John.
From the makers of Queen the Movie comes Elton John the Movie… Soon David Bowie the Movie

I grew up listening to Elton John. I was born in 1976 the year of Don’t go breaking my heart.

The hit song of my birth year.

My parents had some of Elton John’s albums. I remember the one with the black and yellow cover where he wears rectangular glasses and sports a beard. The contrasted image is a closeup of his face and above is the title Honky Chateau.
The first album I saw and heard by Elton John

In the 80s, I remember loving the songs Blue Eyes, Nikita and hating I’m Still Standing. I remember discovering Sorry seems to be the hardest word and Elton John’s high pitch voice. And then of course, I discovered all his other songs and loved most of them. I didn’t know too much about Elton John in the early 80s except that he had some drinking issues and had been married to a woman but he was actually gay. But that was superfluous. His music was what counted.

With all this said, a movie about Elton John has been made and it’s not as exciting as his music and performances.

The movie Rocketman centres on Elton John’s childhood up to the early 1980s. We follow him as he composes music to Bernie Taupin’s lyrics and through the tumultuous period of fame he went through. Drugs, drinking, evil, calculating manager, mean father, the friend that never gives up on him, daring, colourful costumes, high heels, sex with another man, it’s all there and it’s enjoyable to watch. The film of course could only be entertaining since every 5 minutes it launches into a number that includes one of Elton John’s famous songs. It’s a musical so be prepared to see people start singing in the kitchen and even inside a pool.

One of the more touching moments of the film.

The film touched me during the Your Song segment. It’s a sweet moment of acting and singing between Egerton and Jamie Bell who plays Bernie Taupin. Taron Egerton solidly plays him with tons of energy and is convincing except for moments where he looks a bit too muscular and his manners seem awkward as a gay man. Fortunately, the film didn’t shy from having a gay sex scene which is very positive.

Elton John was such a character in the 70s and 80s. The film is entertaining but it’s bland and conventional. I wished it had been crazier, dirtier, just like Elton John was at that time of his life. The film looks like a shiny postcard when it should have looked like a beautiful gigantic painting that gets vandalized. The film is clearly made to attract the largest crowd possible by trying to be cool but not bland. The film ressembles more what Elton John is like these days rather than who he was then. It’s not bad but it doesn’t capture the bigger than life genius. I haven’t seen the film about Queen but judging from its trailer, it looks very similar in style.

Change the sets, keep the lighting and directing, and Voilà, you have Rocketman.

Rocketman touches on the surface of Elton John’s art. We never truly see him struggling to compose music, it always comes easily in the film. We never learn about his process. It would have been thrilling to dig into the brain of this genius of catchy tunes. Maybe for the sequel? I can see it coming: focus on the 1980s to 2000s where Elton John stops wearing outrageous costumes, stops playing on a really piano and has hair again. Can you feel the love tonight? That’s the sequel’s title!


Seen with Douglas on DVD October 4, 2019

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