Myerla’s review published on Letterboxd :
If there’s one thing the movie industry is good at it is noticing a slight trend and then trying to capitalise on it. Even though an Elton John biopic has been in the works for years, the success of A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody made for promising signs of it being a hit. Bohemian Rhapsody, despite its success, certainly has its very vocal detractors who despised the director and hated how the film depicted Freddie’s sexuality by either straightwashing him or depicting it in a way people found grossly offensive. It seems unlikely similar criticism would be aimed at Rocketman because it is one of the very few mainstream Hollywood productions to feature gay sex. Rocketman’s higher rating allow it to be more explicit allowing it to provide at least some of the action that alluded the Queen biopic.
As fun as Bohemian Rhapsody was it’s not easy to argue its merits as a great movie. It played itself as more of a collection of Queen’s greatest hits and was so bereft of ideas that it featured almost the entirety of the band’s performance at Live Aid. Rocketman doesn’t feature a 20-minute sequence you can find on Youtube and instead attempts to subvert some of the tropes of a musical biopic by smartly tying in the most famous Elton John songs into the themes and narrative of the film. It plays as a biopic, and a musical-fantasy as the timing of the musical numbers match the events of the story. Take for example, Elton’s I’m Still Standing which follows his return from the brink of destruction from drink and drugs. Director Dexter Fletcher’s (who also worked on Bohemian Rhapsody) creativity and lighthearted take on the material helps the eye-popping, fantastical elements have an extravagant visual appeal (the colours are worthy of the man himself) and bring something refreshing to a tired genre.
Taron Egerton is marvellous as Elton John, playing him at his elaborate highs and terrible lows perfectly, and whilst he doesn’t bear a striking resemblance to the singer, it’s still an impressive performance in which he does his own singing. Having performed I’m Still Standing in Sing, Egerton already had the relevant experience to take on a role he really makes his own. Elton’s friendship with Bernie (Jamie Bell) is moving, and his toxic relationship with John Reid (Richard Madden) elicits sympathy for man taken advantage of. The film follows a typical biopic tale, but the central point of the narrative is an AA meeting which utilises flashback as a story telling device (starting at his childhood) thereby giving us a feeling that Elton is reflecting on his past life, especially his regrets and feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing.
Elton John was closely involved in the production of Rocketman so it was never going be an entirely warts and all depiction yet it does depict his slide into a life of drugs and the struggles of his personal life. It’s certainly not a rose tined picture of his life, however, the drug addiction and sex fuelled orgies feels a little underdeveloped (it does depict it impressively in song, but it never felt as though there was a reliance on drugs) as the film focuses on his incredible stage presence and insecurities. It does feel like a conventional biopic (the middle sags a little) even if the way Elton’s songs are shown in the movie subvert some the clichés and make it feel more than just a montage of Elton John’s greatest hits.