It’s officially Pride Month, which calls for the celebration of the LGBTQ community. June was designated as Pride Month in the United States to commemorate the Stone Wall Riots and to recognize the impact that the LGBTQ community has on the nation. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off Pride Month than with the release of Rocketman, a film from New Public Pictures, which is directed by Dexter Fletcher.
The film follows the life of Sir Elton John (Taron Egerton), who is one of the greatest musicians to have ever lived. However, not everything in his life was great, which is what much of the film spends time showing. The film focuses on major events of Elton’s life, from his early childhood years as he desperately seeks the love and appreciation from his father, his rise to success, and the struggles that come with the amount of fame he achieved. Rocketman a rich and powerful story that shows a side of Elton John that many people may have never seen before.
One of the many surprises while investigating this film is that it had been in production since 2001. The film had gone through various productions companies and actors, Tom Hardy and Justin Timberlake who were at one point selected to play Elton John. However, Taron Egerton was ultimately chosen for the role and the film had found a definitive production company. It would’ve been simple for this film to have been abandoned, especially since it took them 18 years to finally put out. I for one am very grateful that this movie was released. It’s a story that needed to be told for many generations to appreciate the work and life of Elton John.
I’ve seen Taron Egerton in a few of the projects he’s been in, including Robin Hood, Sing, and the Kingsmen films. However, I truly believe that this is the greatest role that he’s ever played. He not only sang all the songs but he was able to embody Elton John in a way that no other person could have possibly been able to do. His scenes in the AA meetings fully demonstrate his acting capabilities as he goes through various emotions every time that the film cuts back to the meetings. With each scene serving as a transition to a point in Elton John’s life, the audience is given an inside look into his mental and physical state, rather than just glossing over them.
There’s another scene in the film where Elton calls his mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) and confesses to her that he’s a homosexual, to which his mother doesn’t seem to care. She even tells him that he will never find someone who truly loves him, which leads Elton to fall even deeper into drugs and alcohol. The emotions that Egerton gives off in this scene are just powerful and I found myself tearing up. Egerton is also able to pull off the swagger and finesse that Elton has every time that he performed. There were times in the film where I honestly imagined the real Elton John singing those songs instead of Egerton
This film would have been a major flop had it not been for the songs used and the way which Egerton sang them. There were some songs that were given different renditions which matched perfectly to the scenes where they were used. “The Bitch Came Back” was the first song used in the film, starting off slow and quickly transitioning to displaying the more colorful life that Elton saw during his childhood. “Pinball Wizard” was used to depict Elton’s fall into depression and excessive use of drugs. The stage began to spin around him, much like a pinball would when one hits it. I highly recommend anyone to purchase the soundtrack or listen to it on streaming services before and after seeing the film.
One of the main aspects that makes this film stand out from other biopics is the representation of a person who is homosexual. While biopics like Bohemian Rhapsody simply glossed over this aspect, Rocketman wasn’t afraid to fully embrace it. The film has made history for being the first film to show a gay male sex scene on-screen. Given that Elton’s sexuality was a major part of his life and career it would’ve been strange for it to not be a factor in the film. With Elton John himself being the executive producer, audiences can rest assured that the relationship between Elton and John Reid’s (Richard Madden) wasn’t misinterpreted or used as a just another element to move the plot forward.
The use of color and costume designs in the film was phenomenal. Towards the end of the film, Elton admits to his mother that his life isn’t as black and white as hers. This colorful life is shown in the opening scene where it shows an older and younger Elton in full color while everyone else is in black and white. It was a unique line that made this notion of his life come full circle in the film. The costumes, which are all replicas of those that Elton John wore, were aesthetically pleasing to look at. They were definitely an important piece to Egerton playing such an iconic individual.
Additionally, the effects in Rocketman were absolutely phenomenal. I was completely memorized with two effects in particular. One was during Elton’s first performance at The Troubadour. There’s a moment where Elton is completely lost in his music as he plays the piano. Suddenly, he jumps and starts floating in the air. He looks at his hands and at the crowd, fully embrace the moment he’s in. This is one of the few scenes which shows Elton truly being happy. It was such a captivating effect and completely pulled me in even more.
The second, which was shown in a trailer, shows Elton in a pool looking down at the bottom. Without going into spoiler territory for why it happens, it has an even deeper meaning, which relates to the physical and mental state that Elton finds himself. It demonstrates how much depression, drugs, and alcohol have taken complete control of his life. The gut-wrenching feelings and the effects that made this scene possible play off each other so well that it will certainly make audiences empathize with Elton.
The rest of the supporting cast also do a fantastic job. However, Elton’s best friend Bernie (Jamie Bell) is one of the characters that stand out from the rest. Rocketman does a fantastic job showing just how close they became over the years and what an unstoppable force they were in terms of creating music. Their first meeting is just them bonding over music, which shows how important it is to them.
Towards the end of the film, even after all the struggles and heavy situations that Elton’s had to deal with, Bernie is still there to support him. If that’s not a healthy and true friendship, then I don’t know what is. And just as an added bonus that gives the audience an even better picture of how strong their friendship was, the film puts an emphasis on the fact that they never had a real argument since becoming friends.
After watching the teaser trailer for Rocketman that released eight months ago, it quickly became my most anticipated film of the year. It was a lot of pressure put on a film that only showed less than one minute of footage, but I had full faith that this film would far exceed my expectations. I’m more than overjoyed that this film did just that. I wouldn’t consider myself the biggest Elton John fan, but I grew up listening to a few of his songs. I never took any real interest in knowing his story, but this film provided me with a place to start.
Rocketman managed to deliver an authentic biopic that wasn’t afraid to take risks. I would not be surprised if this film received a few award nominations around award season.
Rocketman is now playing at a cinema near you.
Rating: 10/10 Goodbyes to the Yellow Brick Road