“Rocketman,” this summer’s beautiful biopic about the internationally famous Elton John and his adventures through life with music, fame, love and substance abuse, landed on DVD shelves this month.
Unlike some similar music films of the past, including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” this movie sets up its story as more of a musical rather than a realistic biography. The result is that “Rocketman” is by far the best biographical film I have ever seen. It has many things to recommend it, the best of them being the setup of the story.
Unlike most such movies that revolve around a character’s story and the accuracy of that story, the writers have turned the story of Elton’s life and into a musical revolving around the singer and his songs.
Of course, the movie is often factual. Many settings and classic Elton outfits are done to a T. And most events do happen in correct chronological order. However, some scenes in Elton’s life are placed in different times in order to better the story. And the story, as it is, is outstanding.
“Rocketman” progresses Elton’s story through performances of Elton’s songs. Every song is performed by actor Taron Egerton, who portrays the singer, and they are used to transition the characters from one scene to another or to express a plot point or shift. Most of these songs are presented in a context in which the lyrics intentionally differ from what was originally written by Elton and his lyricist, Bernie Taupin.
A good example of this is “Honky Cat,” a song Taupin wrote about Elton and his experiences of changing from a laid-back country life into high-class city living. In the movie, this song is used to accompany Elton’s transition from the mildly expressive singer to a high-spending and drug-using star as he dives into the music business with his new manager, John Reid.
“Bennie and the Jets” is a song that’s about the glory and the glitz of the early 1970s music scene; in the movie, the song is instead used to show Elton’s change from a plucky and happy singer to what he eventually became, a depressed man with a substance abuse problem.
With this type of musical step up, “Rocketman” properly inserts Elton John’s classic rock beats into the dramatic story of his early adulthood downward spiral.
The casting in this film is phenomenal, and every actor plays his part to optimal ability. Egerton nails his portrayal of Elton, and learned to not only play the piano but also worked to mimic Elton John’s singing style.
Audiences hear Egerton’s voice in all but one of the songs in the film. He portrays the depressing beauty of Elton’s story perfectly, especially in scenes where his character has to go from happy to drunk to suicidal. In a scene with Bernie Taupin (portrayed by Jamie Bell), we see Egerton’s Elton go from being angrily argumentative, to immediately expressing depression as he sees his love cheat on him, to going on stage and putting on a fake smile for fans.
The writing and directing of “Rocketman” could have been a simple retelling of Elton John’s life. Instead, the writing is complex, beautiful and driven by the movie’s musical numbers.
If you love music or film, “Rocketman” is a masterpiece that will inspire musical hearts and tug on your heartstrings. Elton John’s career and music have changed lives through song, and this much-deserved biopic shows just how his music and career changed him. “Rocketman” is a marvelous experience and an amazing story everyone needs to see.