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1. If you absolutely HATE musicals, save your money. This is the John/Taupin equivalent of a Rodgers & Hammerstein. It is not presented as a straightforward biopic in the same manner as BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. 2. Much as I love Elton John, this "rock & roll fantasy" of his life treads a little too far into campy territory for me, with 2, maybe 3 very (thankfully) brief moments in the film that can only be described as cringeworthy. ("Oh, come on, guys--seriously?" moments.) There were times when I genuinely felt this was going to end up as the Ken Russell version of TOMMY for the new millennium. 3. Never, at any point in the film, is Paul Buckmaster mentioned or acknowledged. This infuriated me! For those who don't already know: in the early days of EJ's career, Paul was the orchestrator who provided EJ with the BEAUTIFUL, lush string accompaniments that added so much to EJ's early music (classic example: EJ's soundtrack to the 1971 French film, FRIENDS) and, IMHO, could have been a big player in his success as a burgeoning artist, firmly introducing/establishing The Elton John "Sound." He SHOULD have been a part of this film--even a small one, if deemed necessary--but for him to be utterly omitted from the story mystifies me. Maybe someone in the know can enlighten me on this.
These 3 things, however, are about my only problems with the film. Credit must be given where it's due:
1. Taron Egerton is actually pretty amazing. Some might see his acting as occasionally over the top, but frankly and for all we know, maybe EJ really did act that "extremely" at times, considering his anger issues. His singing, most of the time, is virtually spot-on, catching EJ's lilting singing style quite well. 2. The supporting cast: Jamie Bell (Bernie Taupin), Bryce Dallas Howard , Richard Madden (EJ's agent & self-centered 1st lover), Stephen Graham (Dick James), Tate Donovan (L.A.'s Troubador Club manager Doug Weston), Gemma Jones (Ivy, EJ's grandmother, I think...? Or friend of the family?) & Steven Mackintosh (EJ's cold, uncaring father)...and all others in the film, essentially faultless. ESPECIALLY Jamie's portrayal of Bernie. Wow. 3. You can't really find fault with the staging and choreography of the musical numbers. Very professionally done. 4. You will learn many things about EJ's life in this film that you may not have known before...I know I did. 5. Have a few Kleenexes handy. Enough said. 6. Don't leave right away after the credits roll.
So, is it worth seeing? My criticisms aside (and we all know what they say about opinions), it really comes down to this: if you're a fan--and especially a DEDICATED fan, like me, who's followed him from his humble beginnings in America in the summer of 1970--go see it. Decide for yourself if my gripes hold any water.
One of my favorite scenes among many others is the meeting at the Royal Academy of Music, with the third movement of the Sonata Piano No. 11 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played twice. I do not know if it's true but, if so, this child is ingeniously bluffing!
The costumes are superb and the actors are fabulous. The realization is ingenious especially with the appropriate and relevant insertion of the songs in the film, like in a musical. As a synthesis: 7/8 of 10.
*This is LONG. I have a lot of thoughts*
To start off, I'm not much of a fan of musicals - other than a select few that I've loved since childhood. And I'm also not a fan of the fantasy genre. But I wanted to watch this and form my own opinion of it because I am a massive fan of Bohemian Rhapsody, and Rocketman has been compared to death to it, so I wanted to give it a fair chance and see what all the fuss was about. I'm going to review it in sections to make reading it a bit easier. It's very long, especially where I compare it to Bohemian. (Although I adore Bohemian, I do wish that some things were done differently, but it doesn't keep me awake at night like it clearly does for some people.)
TARON: His acting was great! I found that it was even better in the second half when the storyline turned darker & more dramatic. I don't really know much about Elton John and haven't seen much archival footage of him, but from reviews, it sounds like Taron had Elton's mannerisms down and really inhabited his character. Also, I gotta say...Taron's voice is beautiful. It has an interesting quirkiness to it at times but he can also belt out when necessary.
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: Considering this movie is based around Elton's issues with addiction and self-hate, I felt like we didn't get to see an in depth build up of his inner turmoil. It kind of seemed rushed, like certain people treated him poorly and he was frustrated/hurt and then suddenly he was an addict. I wasn't emotionally invested in that aspect of the story, which is its core focal point. As for other characters, some were very underdeveloped and their impact on Elton didn't have much of an impact on me.
SCRIPT: There were some cringy moments where I found the writing was blatantly weak/awkward.
EDITING/FLOW: It made the story feel disjointed at times. Sometimes I felt like the transitions from regular scenes to musical scenes (and vice versa) were clever and flowed well, and sometimes they didn't and felt messy. This is also where some of the fantasy moments just didn't work for me.
COMPARISONS TO BOHEMIAN & RAMI: 1) One thing I think is super unfair is how people are using praising Taron for doing his own singing as an opportunity to throw shade at Rami for not singing in Bohemian. First of all, Rami actually did sing. He took singing lessons and "sang at the top of his lungs every day" (a direct quote from him). For the people who didn't pay attention, you could see his neck and throat muscles flexing during the performance scenes. And then in the editing room they blended Freddie's voice into his with the result being mostly Freddie that came through. Second, no one can replicate Freddie Mercury's unique four-octave range, which is probably the best voice in all of rock history. Rami simply didn't have a good enough voice to pull off a convincing performance of a rock legend, whereas Taron already had the gift of a great voice BEFORE Rocketman. It's not as if he learned to sing for this movie. That was an advantage Taron had when getting this role, but it doesn't mean that Rami has now become less worthy of winning his Oscar. I've seen a lot of user & critic reviews saying "if Rami could win an Oscar for lip-syncing then Taron is more deserving because he actually sang". An actor's performance in a music movie is about more than just the voice. Both Rami and Taron's roles were about immersing themselves fully into the person they were portraying through mannerisms, body language, overall essence, etc. Think of it this way, if Taron sang but he didn't deliver a convincing performance in the acting department, the singing aspect wouldn't have mattered.. so the reverse can also be true and was the case for Rami...his actual voice wasn't audible to us on screen but his acting was great and he delivered a convincing performance in other ways.
2) People have slammed Bohemian for having inaccuracies in timelines and facts... well Rocketman does too. Both movies took creative license in order to compress 20+ years into 2 hours. I don't get why people couldn't handle that when it came to Bohemian but can seem to overlook that for Rocketman. These movies aren't documentaries, they are products of Hollywood and the entertainment industry.
3) Considering things I read in reviews about the "level of gayness", and its R-rating, I expected to see some pretty graphic stuff. But that just wasn't the case. I live in Canada and we have a less strict rating system here. It's been rated 14A, which is basically a step above PG-13 for Americans. There are a few scenes that had some passionate but short-lived making out, a sex scene that cut away before showing any actual sex, an oral sex scene that didn't show anything, a gay orgy musical scene, and flamboyant outfits. And Bohemian had a few make outs, a post-"one night stand" scene, a gay club scene, a drag scene, and flamboyant outfits. The biggest difference to me is that Rocketman is intentionally very flashy, which is already a major component of the musical genre. And it's a gay musical... Of course there will be excess! And there was, but just not as much as I expected. Freddie's risqué lifestyle wasn't front and centre of Bohemian, but it was purposely made that way. Both these movies had different approaches & intentions. Bohemian focused more on Freddie as a musician, who struggled with personal issues on the side, while Rocketman focused on the inner demons that followed young Elton from childhood, right through to his journey as a musician.
The fact that Elton is alive and was involved in the movie making process was an advantage for Rocketman, but Bohemian didn't have that luxury with Freddie. I think the writers of Bohemian felt a duty to Freddie to not get caught up with the exposing of his darker side (sex/drugs) but to instead preserve his legacy. He was harassed by the press for his entire career over his flamboyancy and sexuality, and he died at a time when being gay still wasn't accepted, so I think that respect factor was taken into consideration when the movie was made in terms of the level of personal life "disclosure" they felt was appropriate. Also, making the movie suitable for such a wide audience was a wise decision. It not only helped them rake in almost 1 billion $ but also helped get Queen's music out to every generation simultaneously. The R-rating on Rocketman is going to limit who will see it and how much money is made.
4) Something I liked a lot more about Bohemian was the concert scenes. They felt more epic to me, like you were actually there in the audience or on stage with them. The concert scenes in Rocketman were really good but the fantasy sections came in too early for me. The scene where he sings Rocketman in the massive stadium was exhilarating and the kind of thing I wanted more of, and then he suddenly blasts up into the sky like a rocket and it really killed that entire scene for me. It just made me want to laugh.
MUSICAL ASPECT: As I said I'm not really a fan of musicals nor fantasy, and being a fan of Bohemian and it's traditional biopic storytelling, I really wish Rocketman wasn't a musical. I would've liked to have seen Elton's story presented in a typical biopic way.
CRITIC REVIEWS: Something tells me that the critics had an attitude of "anything will be better than Bohemian Rhapsody", so they jumped right in to praise Rocketman, and decided to ignore any flaws it has.
MARKETING: I'm not quite sure why they didn't advertise this as a full musical, but my guess is they wanted to be vague in the trailers (kind of like Bohemian's trailers) in order to create enough buzz so that they could then ride on the coattails of Bohemian's financial success and the audience hunger it created for future music biopics. Not everyone likes musicals, so I think they wanted to keep the genre somewhat "under wraps".
OSCAR POTENTIAL: I think Taron is totally deserving of an Oscar nomination, and the movie should also get nominations for costume design, cinematography, and the sound categories. Whether that happens or not and whether there are wins or not is unpredictable at this point because we're only halfway through the year and there will be a bunch more movies coming out in the next 6 months that could kick it out as a contender. Also, because it's a summer movie and not an "awards season" movie, the hype surrounding it may fizzle out by December/January.
One scene I really loved was when Taron sang Tiny Dancer. His high notes were breathtaking! And the performance where he's dressed up in the huge puffy dress and white makeup was hilarious. There were definitely some fun, humourous scenes throughout the movie that I enjoyed.
Sadly though, I felt like Rocketman didn't inspire any interest in Elton John in me. The mixture of dark and light moments, and the bipolar feel to the movie didn't help me feel uplifted or like I'd just watched a true celebration of a great artist. But I felt that way after I watched Bohemian and immediately dove headfirst into a Queen/Freddie Mercury addiction.
If you're an Elton John fan, a fan of musicals, or part of the LGBTQ community, chances are you will love this movie.
Although it's not my style, I can appreciate the creativity that went into telling this story, but I do think it belonged more on Broadway.
I'm expecting tons of thumbs down on my review, but that's fine. I read hundreds of reviews that tore Bohemian to shreds, and while I didn't agree with them, we are all entitled to our own opinions. People need to learn to understand and accept this fact. Not everyone has to like or gravitate toward the same kinds of movies. Lastly, NEITHER movie is conclusively "better" than the other. Yes, they are both music biopics, but they are in vastly different genres (drama vs. musical fantasy) & use different styles of storytelling. It all comes down to personal preference and what speaks to/resonates with each individual person.
Problematic right out of the gate, the film has to overcome a befuddling start which takes place from the tawdry vantage point of a psychiatric support group and frames the film's narrative from that trivializing angle from there on out. Perhaps a film of better nuance could have pulled this off but here we have camp, mawkishness and exploitation all rolled into one. The end result is a film whose tone is dumbfounding, annoying and at times embarrassing to endure. The musical numbers in this film are mostly perplexing and very rarely effective in conveying this life story.
I am not one to criticize a biopic because I realize it's a genre that is beholden to the life it is portraying. While I don't question the film's accuracy in portraying how awful Elton John's personal demons were, a film with more discipline almost definitely could have done better. A campy film, one that keeps poking you in the eye with how bad it is, will not tell anyone's story all that well, let alone a legend like Elton John.
Bearing in mind that Egerton's performance has to be seen to be believed, I nevertheless decline to recommend this.
You get to see a respectful and psychological turn in his persona, you get to witness the heartbreaking "addictions" that he constantly forces himself into, you get to view the uncut collision of him dealing with his sexuality, and you even get to feel that loss of love that Elton had felt when he persistently questioned his relationship with peers. All of these affairs are dispensed without and blockades or any desires of censorship and I must commend the filmmakers for going about this risky decision.
And sure, Rocketman is arguably quite the corn-fest at times, but the movie is able to take these cheesy elements of the typical rockstar biopic and format it into a creative fashion that characterizes more charismatic and less repetitive exhibitions. Which brings me to my next point...
I am so pleased that Rocketman turned out to be a nearly full-on musical? I mean, it had to find some way to be different from Bohemian Rhapsody, right? Whenever a musical note comes on it's not just there for Elton John fan-a-holics. The songs always pertain to the presented events transpiring on screen. The methods they use to present the songs as well, offer some more than compulsive and devouring visuals. I also appreciated how they redid all the songs to fit the scenes in a more appropriate manner. It makes the film seem less like a compilation of Elton's original greatest-hits and more like a rendition of what each song means to the story.
Now, Taron Egerton's performance in this is...wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW. He is just bleeding with range and chaotic pizazz in this encapsulation of a contrasted human individual. If someone is worthy of an Oscar nomination this year, it's this guy.
Rocketman doesn't entirely rely on nostalgia like most of its kind does-that implying that sometimes it does, however-and most of its misfit adventures proved about in the story seem earned rather than glossed over at a maximum pace of negligence. Definitely check this one out, especially if you're an Elton John fan!
My biggest gripes were: 1.) Some of the musical numbers were corny and out of character (e.g. young Elton dancing through the streets, acting tough and singing "Saturday". The young Elton John actors/singers were not very good either. 2.) The "fantasy" aspects and creative liberties taken to distort facts were annoying. For example, the scene at the Troubadour. It was corny having Elton and the audience flying but I get that the filmmakers wanted to communicate that the concert was a surreal, life changing evening for everyone there. What made me MAD is that he was playing Crocodile Rock! That was absurd. He and Bernie didn't even write that until '72. Plus, that song is NOT why people would have been blown away with him performance. It's a catchy little ditty that got great airplay but is not one of the songs that make Elton & Bernie great. The real set list for the Troubadour was songs like "Your Song", "Border Song", "Take Me to the Pilot", "Burn Down the Mission". That's the amazing stuff he played that night that rocked people's worlds. Not radio pop "Crocodile Rock". I don't see how any real Elton John can be happy with that gross distortion of facts. How about him playing part of "Sad Songs" for Dick James in 1969? What? That song, one of their worst commercial pop songs, was written in '83. Decades after that scene. Do the filmmaker's think we are stupid? That's not fantasy - that's just wrong! 3.) The majority of the movie was about Elton's struggles with drug/alcohol abuse, sexuality/relationships, and Mommy & Daddy issues. While it was interesting to learn about him as a person, other than some great scenes about his early days writing with Bernie, there was almost nothing about the music and how it was created. The fact that he and Elton and his band (Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson, Dee Murray, Ray Cooper and others) recorded dozens of great albums in cooperation with producer Gus Dudgeon and arranger Paul Buckmaster and that the band performed thousands of concerts was completely omitted from the film. In fact, the movie suggested that Elton didn't enjoy performing concerts. Like the only reason he was there was because his manager propped him up and forced him onstage. Really? Elton must have spent a huge amount of time writing, recording and performing during the first decade of his career. Was he really a wreck who was constantly wasted and feeling sorry for himself the whole time? Were there no happy moments writing music, in the recording studio, onstage? If not then I feel I have wasted my time being a fan all these years. I thought he actually liked the music but the movie suggested that once he became famous it was all about sex, drugs and depression.
Were there things I liked? Sure. I really enjoyed the depiction of the early days in Elton and Bernie's relationship and particularly loved the scene with Elton writing the music to "Your Song". The Elton/Bernie relationship was well represented throughout the movie and the acting/singing of Taron Egerton was superb. Jamie Bell was fantastic. It made me like and admire Bernie even more than I already did. The recreation of scenes like Elton's childhood home, the Troubadour, Dodger Stadium, etc. were really well done with a ton of attention to detail. Which made it even more irritating that the filmmakers thought it was OK to distort other facts like claiming the Elton's last name was inspired by a picture of John Lennon. Sure, that would have been nice but they rewrote history. Elton has documented that it was because he liked Long John Baldry. Why change well documented facts? That's not being "fantastical" - that's just lying.
One aspect I disliked was that too many scenes start in one "area," then the singing/song starts, then they resolve the song into a different "area". Also, I can't recall a single song lasting more than a minute or so, at best. You more-less get snippets of a lot Elton's songs, with the occasional symbolism added to some of them. What's unfortunate, in my opinion, is that some of his hits aren't at all played like the real songs themselves
In regards to the acting, it was decent. There are some emotional scenes which were filmed quite effective, but, nothing that'll leave you sobbing. In addition, you may find out some things that you never knew about Elton John
In conclusion: I think die-hard Elton John fans will probably like this movie. Ultimately, though, your overall opinion of Rocketman will come down how much you like or dislike musicals...
I cannot even single out what was the worst thing about "Rocketman", but certainly the most irritating was the time frame of events/songs. My concern is that people of a younger generation who don't know much about Elton and see this film will think that certain things that occurred are fact, like that one of the songs he performed at the historic Troubadour show that helped catapult him to superstardom was "Crocodile Rock", when in reality, it hadn't even been written yet. Another concern was an example from a fan review I read on another website where a woman(who didn't seem like she was real familiar with Elton's life)said that after seeing "Rocketman"(which she loved), she "felt sorry" for him. I really don't think that Elton John would want pity from his fans, but because there is so much emphasis on the unhappy events in his life, one who is not familiar with the man and his body of work would think he hardly had ANY good times in his life during that crazy superstar time, and he DID have a significant amount of fun, he has admitted in interviews over the last couple of decades.
If this film was going to be a musical, it should have had at least a fair balance of good and bad times, and not so much a woe-is-me film. But even with a fair balance, the whole thing would have still probably been a hot mess with the way it was made. A straight biopic would have been SO much better. Somebody needs to make a REALLY good and detailed documentary(and it doesn't even have to be a film in theatres; it can be a multi-part series on a network like HBO or Showtime)on Elton John. If you really want to see something that more successfully captures the fascinating complexity that is Elton, I recommend watching "Tantrums and Tiaras" from 1997, the documentary that was directed by David Furnish(then-boyfriend, now husband). That will be far more interesting than "Rocketman" was, so save your money and skip "Rocketman", and I say this as somebody who's loved Elton John and his music for decades. Because I am a longtime fan, I really, really wanted to like, no, LOVE the film, but unfortunately, I just couldn't.
Growing up in Pinner, with his emotionally negligent father and domineering mother, young Reginald Dwight showcased a prodigious talent for the piano, which saw him penning his own songs, before adopting the stage name of Elton John (Taron Egerton). From here, he developed a personal and professional partnership with songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and enjoyed phenomenal success but was also plunged into a wild, hedonistic world of celebrity, parties, drink and drugs, as well as a struggle with his own sexuality, that almost threatened to send him over the edge.
It's a bit of a risk making a dramatization of the life of a 'living legend', where the slightest deviation from the truth could result in a lawsuit. And so director Dexter Fletcher has taken a brave risk with this musical biopic of one Mr Elton John, which, given he's aware of it and probably seen it, means it must have met with his approval. Which can only mean his life has been every bit as wild and outrageous as Fletcher has portrayed it to be. He's certainly a character who provides interesting subject matter for a biopic, and Rocketman is a slightly disconcerting but still effective and well made production that delivers the goods.
Although you might expect it to be a musical (given its subjects profession) it's not made immediately clear, and when the first musical numbers come through, they catch you off guard and unsettle the tone somewhat. They're not expected, given unlike recent musicals such as Jersey Boys and Bohemian Rhapsody, it's not been adapted from a stage musical, plus there's been the 2013 Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, which featured no musical numbers. Still, on their own, they're electrifying, and when they become more consistent towards the end, they slot into the backdrop of the story, as the film delves into Elton's personal issues and wild excesses.
If you can appreciate it in the format it's in, it's wonderful work, with a strong lead performance from Egerton, really capturing the spirit of the flamboyant but troubled John. It manages to include most (but obviously not all!) of his back catalogue, and for the true devotees, will serve the same function as the Broadway stage musical it obviously wants to be. ****
To get the positives out of the way, I thought that Taron Egerton did a Fantastic job as Elton John, nailing both the personality and appearance. Jamie Bell also gave a solid performance as John's lyricist Bernie Taupin. All of the other performances were decent as well. The dialog wasn't bad or cringeworthy, with the exception of executive Dick James. Nothing was done POORLY necessarily, but I will say if Egerton was not in this film, I probably would have rated Rocketman a 4/10 or even a 3/10. Let me get into all of my issues with this film.
Firstly I need to mention that Rocketman is a musical, where moments of his life or feelings are related to John's many songs. I only feel the need to mention this because I feel the marketing was very misleading, convincing people that Rocketman was going to be a more conventional biopic. Now, the musical moments are done badly, but for a feature film that is about a REAL person and story, it doesn't fit well. What the writers and director were trying to go for would have made a better broadway show, instead of a theatrical release. There are also WAY too many of these musical-style moments, particularly in the final third. And to clarify, by "musical" I'm referring to a film like Moulin Rouge.
I also felt like Rocketman glossed over a HUGE amount of events In John's life such how he recorded his first few albums, how he wrote songs with Bernie, etc. They could of included a scene of Elton helping John Lennon overcome stage freight or any other interesting stories during Elton's golden era, but Rocketman flashes forward to the start of his career to when he starts to descend into drugs. The most important part of his career is pushed to the side. Another example of this involves John's wife. We don't know who she is, how she knows him, or even her name. The actress is literally given around 6 lines. So when her three minutes of screen time are up, and you find out her and John have divorced, you don't care because you learned nothing about her.
Also, going back to the musical aspect, some inaccuracies end up being raised. Like how Elton wrote Saturday's Alright for Fighting at 12 (which he didn't). I also question the idea of everyone he knew, save Taupin and his grandma, were so harsh and mean.
Overall, Rocketman isn't an awful film by any means, and with Egerton's performance and the Your Song scene, I can still recommend this to extreme John fans. Otherwise, wait to rent.
Rocketman is a retelling of Elton John's (Taron Egerton) fantastical life, from his breakthrough years to his struggles with depression, substance abuse and the acceptance of his sexual orientation.
As soon as Rocketman starts, you know what sort of ride you're in for, Dexter Fletcher having a clear vision on how he wanted to portray the life of such a big character, by going big with the production. This isn't a conventional biopic by any means, Lee Hall writing it as a number of flashbacks amongst a group session during Elton's time in rehab. It isn't always big glasses and loud outfits mind as Fletcher and Hall work together, with input from Elton himself no doubt, to tell an unflinching tale of love, most importantly for yourself.
Rocketman doesn't dance around the troubles in Elton's extraordinary life, his family life at a younger age setting him down the long and winding road to stardom that inevitably leads to plenty of drugs and alcohol, all while trying to navigate the homosexuality that first finds love, followed quickly by pain. It's funny when it needs to be but also incredibly touching at times.
All of this comes amongst what I can only describe as a fantastical celebration of Elton's string of hits, the fantasy elements working a treat and suiting the man down to a tee. It's a proper musical by nature, so expect to be toe-tapping when he hits the big time with Crocodile Rock or even wowing a local pub with Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting), the musical numbers intertwined with specific moments in his younger life brilliantly.
The musical numbers and Elton's story are major players in the film's success however, Taron Egerton's electrifying performance as Elton John is the real driving force in making this a stunning biopic. The singing is note perfect and the charisma really does ooze from the screen as Egerton, quite literally, becomes Elton. Seriously, there were a few moments where I thought they had chucked in stock footage of Elton just to mess with us but it was indeed Egerton, that's how good he is here.
The supporting cast, Jamie Bell in particular as Elton's longtime songwriting collaborator Bernie Taupin, deliver alongside Egerton to make Rocketman stand-out amongst many other biopics. Richard Madden as John Reid delivers a juxtaposed performance that will really get under your skin while Stephen Graham nearly steals the show as Dick James, Elton and Bernie's first manager.
There truly is no stealing the show in Rocketman mind as this is well and truly Taron Egerton's film. If Kingsman earned him a reputation as a rising star, Rocketman will make him a true star.