I went into Rocketman with an attitude, but I felt pleasantly turned around soon enough. I was more delighted with the first 30 to 40 minutes (Elton John‘s childhood, taking piano lessons as a teen, teaming with young Bernie Taupin) and less delighted with the remainder, which is basically about Elton becoming more and more of a booze-swigging, coke-sniffing party animal and his life downswirling into addiction and self-destruction.
I respect Dexter Fletcher‘s decision to not tell Elton’s saga Bohemian Rhapsody-style, using a linear “this happened and then that happened” scheme. Instead he chose a more creative and dynamic (not to mention more cinematic) approach by making it into a punched up, inventively choreographed, mad-brush Ken Russell musical.
The framing device is Elton confessing all during an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Out of this comes a looking-back-at-my-life, All That Jazz-type deal that uses several John-Taupin songs as emotional backdrops or undercurrents for various biographical moments. The film isn’t biographically accurate in some respects (i.e., certain songs are played at the wrong time) and there’s a lot more interest in a glitter-and-glam aesthetic than any kind of semi-realistic presentation of how things really went down, but this is the film they chose to make.
It’s “cinematic”, yes, but I’m betting that down the road an ambitious director and a gifted choreographer will transform Rocketman into a Broadway stage musical.
My dissatisfaction with Egerton’s singing voice, which sounds only vaguely like John’s, remains. Now that I’ve seen the whole magillah, I can say definitively that Egerton’s singing moments are only mildly sufficient (they don’t stop the film in its tracks but they don’t quite knock you out either), and that I would have felt a lot more satisfied or soothed if he was capable of delivering a more Elton-like sound.
Egerton seems a little taller and more muscular that the Real McCoy (he’s 5′ 9″ compared to John’s 5′ 7″) but I wouldn’t call that an actual quibble.