In the last couple of years, biopics about beloved rockstars of the 1970s and ‘80s have become massively popular again. Not only have they become popular, they have also proven themselves to be truly relevant in the world of film. 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody chronicled the rise of Freddie Mercury and Queen into musical stardom, and earned Rami Malek a Best Actor Academy Award win. The film was arguably the start of a new trend towards artful, high-quality musical biopics to come.
Rocketman continues the trend, in theaters May 31st. The film is a daring, colorful, and lively musical told through the eyes of the musical genius himself, Elton John. Its main cast includes star Taron Egerton as the flashy titular character, Jamie Bell as his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Sheila Eileen Dwight, Elton John’s saucy mother. The film finds its structure through Elton John reminiscing a bit about his life. We see the evolution of the Rocketman, from childhood musical prodigy to vibrant rockstar.
Much more than Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman uses the songs of its star to tell its story, and the film does so extremely well. Director Dexter Fletcher and writer Lee Hall found some brilliant ways to fit Elton John’s iconic lyrics into his life story. Composer Matthew Margeson also perfectly weaves John’s melodies into the film’s score, creating some beautifully emotional moments. The team behind the making of this film have crafted something bright and affecting that is truly evocative of the legend that is Elton John.
Elton, whose short-lived birth name was Reginald Dwight, finds his affinity for music while sitting at a piano, and is able to cultivate his talents at the Royal Academy of Music. He is introduced to his songwriting partner Bernie, and songs like ‘Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)’ and ‘Crocodile Rock’ move his story along in amusing ways as he learns to perform in front of increasingly large crowds and legends of rock.
More melancholy songs like ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and ‘Your Song’ personify Elton’s emotions as he struggles with difficult personal relationships and addictions. ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ and ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me’ are great accompaniment for Elton’s exploration of love, fame, and loss. In the film’s third act, ‘I’m Still Standing’ represents Elton’s triumph over his addictions and the people in his life who sought to take advantage of him. Elton John’s full range of musical emotions is put on superb display in this film.
Taron Egerton’s performance as Elton John elevates the film to greatness. His singing is rather fantastic, and his acting is truly touching. Audiences can easily sympathize with the very human struggles Elton experienced, and will be swept away by Taron/Elton’s ability to rise above those struggles through music. Egerton is easily deserving of a Best Actor nomination for this role, and would be worthy of a win in that category.
In a story heavily affected by a deadbeat father, Elton John’s mother (Sheila Eileen Dwight) is portrayed assertively and poignantly by Bryce Dallas Howard (BDH). She serves as one of Elton’s only sources of true support as his career takes off. BDH’s performance in this unique role is full of strength and determination. Though Dwight was not always the best mother, she was a voice of reason and sustenance for Elton. BDH begins the role as a relatively young mother who finds herself in the presence of a unique talent. By the end of the film she’s gained both years and wisdom. This is shown both figuratively and literally through BDH’s acting and subtle makeup effects. Through it all, BDH triumphs as one of the stars that drive this film. Her accent, sass, and mannerisms do a dazzling job of bring Elton John’s mother figure to life.
Overall, the film is convincingly a step above past musical biopics in many ways. Elton John’s music is utilized in a much more effective way, transforming the film into a musical of sorts. Though this allows the film to sometimes blur the lines between reality and fantasy, Rocketman’s story and its overall message are presented in a clear way, and the songs and music drive those elements home for audiences. On top of that, the star power and performances of Taron Egerton and Bryce Dallas Howard affect and overpower in truly memorable ways. Rocketman is a must-see for any fan of Elton John, but especially any fan of Bryce Dallas Howard.