'Rocketman' Blends Fact with Fantasy for an Entertaining Musical Ride

Taron Egerton as Elton John at the Troubadour nighclub in Hollywood (Photo Credit: David Appleby/Paramount Pictures)

There are only a handful of films released each year that I can say I truly anticipate. And when I first saw the Rocketman trailer some months back, it immediately earned a spot on my 2019 must-see movies list. It should come as no surprise then that I made a beeline to the multiplex on opening weekend to see if it would live up to my expectations. 

Rocketman celebrates the career highs and personal lows of pop music legend Elton John. It depicts his childhood as piano prodigy Reginald Dwight, his rise to international fame and the plethora of destructive dependencies he developed.

Make no mistake. Rocketman isn’t your run-of-the-mill account of a celebrity’s life. Even the trailer declares that “the only way to tell his story is to live his fantasy." And it's not wrong.

 

So, before you head out to the theater, let me fill you in on what makes Rocketman a bit different from other biopics.

First of all, the story is told from the point of view of a rock-bottom Elton John. The movie begins with the singer fleeing a concert to what appears to be an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Plumed and spangled in some sort of demonic fowl costume, he readily admits his problematic addictions to alcohol, cocaine, sex, bulimia and even shopping. Considering his condition, any recollections he reveals can be assumed to be less than reliable, if not entirely fanciful.

For example, when asked by the A.A. group leader to describe what his childhood was like, Elton flashes back to his five-year-old self singing and dancing to "The Bitch Is Back" along with his suburban London neighbors.

Throughout the film, John’s music is presented in a variety of ways - straight performance, montages and full out musical fantasy productions. Specific songs emphasize the emotion of his memories. Just don’t let the sketchy song placement throw you off. They’re meant to enhance the films' storytelling, and have little regard for any chronological order.

Kingsman star Taron Egerton skillfully transforms into Reggie/Elton and it’s also the actor’s dulcet tones we hear in the film’s soundtrack - which isn’t the case with every music biopic. (Looking at you, Bohemian Rhapsody.) Though Egerton is undoubtedly the main vocalist in the film, other people in Elton’s life chime in from time to time, a choice I found a bit jarring to be honest. His self-absorbed mother (Bryce Dallas Howard), distant father (Steven Mackintosh), manipulative manager/boyfriend John Reid (Richard Madden) and songwriting partner and kindred spirit Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) all get a turn at the mic, as it were, with varying degrees of harmonic proficiency.

Rated R for some language, sexual content and drug use, Rocketman doesn’t shy away from depicting emotionally painful episodes in John’s life or the dark places he ended up along the way. Despite his raw talent, outrageous showmanship and the multitude of fans who adored him, for the first half of his life, Elton believed himself to be unlovable. A very relatable, human story that in my opinion was engaging, emotional and entertaining. 

Are you an Elton John fan? Which song is “Your Song? Is Rocketman on your summer movie list? Have seen it already? Share any and all impressions in the comments!