The latest biopic of a major musical icon is “Rocketman,” the story of Reginald Kenneth Dwight becoming Elton John. If you’re a self-described fan of Elton John (as I am) you will, in my opinion, kinda-sorta enjoy this movie. If you’re a super-fan you will love it based on the reaction throughout the movie in the sold out theater we were in Friday afternoon. And, in retrospect, that makes total sense to me.
Elton John himself oversaw this film. Thus, it’s his version of reality he wants us to see. Some of that reality is already being disputed publicly, including, most notably, by Elton’s brother who asserts that the portrayal of their father as being intolerant and unsupportive of Elton’s homosexuality is patently false. But, if you’re a super-fan, you’re going to believe whatever Elton wants you to. Truth be told, while I wasn’t thinking it at the time, the more I think about it, the fact that Elton was so involved in this movie makes it seem as though he’s settling a few scores and, to a certain extent, really playing up the angle of himself as a victim. Don’t get me wrong, the hurdles he had to leap were without question extraordinary, but the fact that he leapt them should have been highlighted more than the extent to which they existed.
Much of the movie is surface-level. They allude to, and scratch the surface of his relationships and addiction, but don’t spend time doing deep dives. And, most frustratingly to me, they end the story in the early 80’s, rather than exploring the 20 years that followed of him being an icon, leader, role-model, and chart dominating artist. At first, I brushed that off as it being difficult to pack a 40+ year career into a two hour movie, but had they made a structural change they could have done so much more. Unlike some of the pioneering music biopics such as “Ray,” and “Walk the Line,” in which the musical performances were contained to re-enactments of concert performances, for the most part, “Rocketman,” is half-movie/half-musical…and the musical part sucks. They could have used that time to advance so many stories with dialogue rather than dance numbers that added nothing to the movie.
Taron Egerton is good, not great, as Elton (there will be no Oscar nomination coming his way if there is any justice in the universe), and his singing is better than his acting, which is fine. As an Elton fan, the songs carried the movie as did the all-to-brief moments where we got some deep insight into his soul, his journey, and his achievements. The fact that they were too few and far between made this movie just OK.