When going to a concert, are we seeing the "singer" or the "show"? This may seem like an odd question, but it makes sense when considering what exactly were watching. We're not there to listen to some songs, but there to experience them as done by it's creator. Chances are their not just going to sing them, but also incorporate dancers, videos, lighting, costume, and perhaps more. A lot of singers/bands will do this to make their fans feel like their witnessing an experience. I've been to plenty myself that have included Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and Metallica. One of the biggest proprietors of this happens to be pianist Elton John.
While I'm not a regular listener of his music, I will say that Elton John is a talented singer/rocker who's created some songs I like, including "Crocodile Rock", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", and "I'm Still Standing". I've always seen him as the modern day Liberace, who happens one of the few famous piano players and also loves to incorporate a lot the theatrical costumes into his shows. I recall learning about him when I first saw The Lion King in 1994, but knew very little about the singer himself. It all comes front and center in Rocketman.
At a rehab facility, a fully costumed Elton John (played by Taron Egerton) admits to being addicted to a lot of things and proceeds to tell his life story. Cut back to his childhood, he was raised as "Reginald Dwight" by his mother Shelia (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) and grandmother Ivy, as his father is largely absent and uninterested in his son. It's apparent right away that "Reginald" is a prodigy with a perfect musical year and becomes good enough to receive a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. He trains further and further while gaining an interest in rock artists like Elvis.
He joins a variety of bands until he tries to make it on his own. Inspired by on of the bands he plays for, he changes his name to Elton John and forms a partnership with songwriter Bernie Taupin (played by Jamie Bell). The two get along, but Elton realizes that he himself is gay. Regardless, his first show in Los Angeles makes him an immediate star. Elton eventually starts a romantic relationship with his new manager John Reid (played by Richard Madden), but starts his addiction to drugs, sex and alcohol.
I'll say that Rocketman is the movie that I had hoped Bohemian Rhapsody was going to be. It's informative, emotional, and most importantly, very entertaining. The biggest difference is that unlike Bohemian Rhapsody,which was a traditional biography, Rocketman is more of a fantasy-like musical, which incorporates his songs into his life story. The result feels like as if it's Elton John' story as told by him. I have no idea if this is close (this feels like it has to be) to what happened, but the filmmaker understood that it was more important to make a unique movie then anything.
A lot of that is on Taron Egerton who does a fantastic job playing Elton John. Along with understanding the pressure the real singer went through, he also translates the flamboyance into something that resonates two meanings: escape and expression. Another screenplay probably would have made him one note. Rocketman allows Taron to express the various sides to come out just to show how complicated Elton was. I'll bet a million dollars that he'll get an academy award nomination for his performance. Perhaps we'll have two years of actors playing musicians winning awards.
Is the movie grand? I though it was certainly very good. When the movie drifts into the drugs and alcohol territory, it does stray a little longer then needed. While I know Elton John did go through a lot of abuse, it's something I've seen a lot of rock star movies already do a lot. I might have been kinder had it focused on his sex addiction, which is rarely seen in movies. At best, Rocketman needed at least fifteen minutes trimmed so that the pacing feels a bit quicker. Regular movie goers probably wont see this as an issue and should have fun regardless.
I'll give this four and a half flamboyant glasses out of five. Rocketman is a real "Rocket Man" as it soars and shows it's audience an experience they could never experience at any of his shows. It's a fun musical and it'll "Still Stand" for a long time.