There have been several recent biopics released over the past few months. Netflix released The Dirt about Motley Crue and most notably the Oscar favorite Bohemian Rhapsody, released in 2018. Biopics generally follow a basic format, the rise to stardom, the poison of fame, the breakup with fame, and some type of redemption. Dexter Fletcher’s 2019 Rocketman is no different in its formula except that it reinvents the standard.
Fletcher’s Rocketman is an explosion of color and emotion on the screen. Surpassing the tropes that are standard for the traditional biopic, Fletcher’s film about the life of Elton John embraces the music, the musician, and cinematic magic. Rocketman follows Elton John (Taron Egerton) from his childhood to his life long collaboration with songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and their rise to fame. Part fantasy, part rock opera, and part Broadway musical, dynamic directing and strong performances raise the bar for musical biopics to come.
Fletcher’s brilliant use of color adds layers to the storytelling. Some segments show muted colors, or darker tones, but the majority of the scenes are vivid and bold hues that complement the music. One of the standout scenes is where we see young Elton transform into his adult form during “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” The camera work is fluid and fast as it chases Egerton through bar fights, a carnival, and a bar making it a truly enjoyable ride.
The fantasy aspect of the film uses wonderful effects such as floating concert crowds, a literal rocket man, and insane shopping montages. This rock opera takes full advantage of movie magic and its stellar cast. Egerton is not the only singer, most of the characters contribute to the singing in ways that amp up dimension in humor as well as drama while the audience is taken from the highlights of success to the tragic and heartbreaking events that sometimes accompany stardom.
This cast is amazing. Bryce Dallas Howard’s gives a standout performance as Elton John’s mother Sheila and Gemma Jones plays the true maternal support as his grandmother. Taron Egerton’s portrayal of Elton John is phenomenal as he transforms from piano playing virtuosso turned rocker. Conveying innocence, vulnerability, and star power, the audience falls in love with Egerton. Richard Madden plays the manager/love interest John Reid, who emits charisma and arrogance charming the audience.
The direction and performances accentuate the nuances of character and storytelling. Elton John is known for his flamboyant concert attire, and the costumes become part of the narrative, both visually compelling as well as key features in shaping the character. Arresting visuals mingled with song choices captivate the audience as darker scenes are punctuated with ominous versions of otherwise bouncy songs, such as images of Egerton scrambling for air while “Bennie and the Jets” envelopes the chaos of the scene.
Rocketman will take the audience through a range of emotions. It will make them uncomfortable, break their hearts, and lift them up. Rocketman is not your typical biopic and it should not be. It’s an original film with each scene as unique as one of Elton John’s outfits.
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