Main cast: Taron Egerton (Elton John), Jamie Bell (Bernie Taupin), Richard Madden (John Reid), Gemma Jones (Ivy), Bryce Dallas Howard (Sheila Dwight), Stephen Graham (Dick James), Steven Mackintosh (Stanley Dwight), Tate Donovan (Doug Weston), Charlie Rowe (Ray Williams), and Tom Bennett (Fred)
Director: Dexter Fletcher
This review came about because of a request from supporter 秋山優人, who said:
Hello. Long time reader here! I know you hate Taron Egerton’s guts, but I’d really like to know your thoughts on Rocketman!
Oh come on, I don’t think that badly of Taron Egerton. He has a nice gut, with those abs and all! In fact, I like him so much better when he’s wearing as little as possible, preferably speaking just as little too, because I enjoy looking at him far more than watching him act.
On the other hand, I never get the fuss about Elton John, as his music never fails to bore me. I like Rocketman, but it takes Kate Bush to raise that song to a level of melancholic camp that works for me. I don’t know why – I’m a big sucker for musical theatrics and camp, but I could never go ga-ga for Mr John the way I would for Billy Idol, David Bowie, Queen, et cetera. Even when he was being this zany and all on stage, I always thought he was this boring uncle type trying way too hard to be something he’s not.
Well, if this movie were anything to go by, the more flashy period of his life was due to the influence, both good and bad, or his boyfriend-cum-manager John Reid. That and his mother Sheila never loving him or accepting him as gay. Oh, and drugs, alcohol, et cetera. This movie touches on his friendship with Bernie Taupin too, from the days when they were living together to, after they were kicked out by the landlady when John decided that he was officially gay and hence she ain’t getting his pee-pee no more, living with his folks. So yes, basically it’s another standard tale of some talented fellow who falls in with the wrong man, ends up in a downward spiral until he hits a new low, and then he cleans up his act and goes back up the happiness ladder.
Is there anything here that I hadn’t seen before in any typical “I was down, now I am up and they are making movies about my life” biopics? Not really. No matter how many musical numbers they can cram in here, this is like The Greatest Showman – the basic story is kind of, well, basic, and the treatment of the story feels more flashy than substantial. The main character’s struggles feel superficial and the resolutions feel a little too tidy. In other words, I feel like the people behind this music are far more interested in making some musical drama than actually presenting well-done drama. Perhaps the real Reginald Dwight would sit on their faces if they crack his veneer even a little, so here, even being a junkie is like “Oh, it’s so sad… but here’s a song, and things are looking better now!”
There are three gorgeous men here – okay, two and three-quarters, as Mr Egerton from neck up doesn’t count – but oh my goodness, the wigs here drive home that, no matter how much I miss music from the 1970s and 1980s, I don’t miss the hair and the glitter at all. Mind you, the real life counterparts of these characters are downgrades in terms of looks compared to the actors that play them, but I guess that’s the whole point of making movies. If someone were to make a movie out of me, I certainly want a hot babe to play me, but then again, I am aware that my life story will likely bore the two people who would be interested in that movie. And that’s basically this movie in a nutshell: it’s a pleasant, idealized, romantic celebration of Elton John’s music and career, so much so that even the “selfish” and “destructive” aspects of Elton John, the lead character in this movie, are just vehicles for an eventual inspirational redemption arc that ends with predictable full house stadium shows and, of course, I’m Still Standing. The real Elton John’s heavy involvement in this movie is probably a detriment, as he wants this movie to portray him as an inspirational messiah in an afternoon after-school “Kids, don’t do drugs and asshole managers, okay?” message way, when I’d have preferred something rawer, more insightful, and more visceral than this safe and calculated production.
Still, it’s worth a watch, I think, if one cares about the music. I have to give it to Mr Egerton – I still think he’s prone to under-acting to his own detriment, and he’s way outclassed by Jamie Bell here even when Mr Bell is wearing an even more hideous wig to distract me, but he certainly goes all out to emote, give broody stares, and even sing in his role here. It’s a shame that the movie doesn’t capitalize on Mr Egerton’s best assets – clothes off, close the gob – but he gets props from me for clearly believing that this is a role of his lifetime and giving his all here. I’d still think this movie might have worked better if Mr Egerton and Mr Bell had switched places, though, but I guess Elton John prefers that the world see Mr Egerton as the younger version of him.
So, Rocketman. It’s alright, but by staying on the safe and formulaic side, it never really takes off in the end.