The disappointing biopic seems to have become a genre in it’s own right by this point, with the massively overrated Bohemian Rhapsody taking its rightful crown as the queen of meandering mediocrity. The main issue with that film (aside from the abysmal editing) is the way they glossed over a lot of the subject matter. Rocketman takes a very different approach, not shying away from Elton’s renowned history of drug abuse, and homosexuality. Instead it uses these as pivotal themes with which the movie revolves around to a disorientating blur.
Rocketman in actuality isn’t a biopic at all. It’s a musical. This format enables it to explore its themes in a more surrealist, and touching manner, taking creative license with the timeline in order to feel complete. Taron Egerton does a great job filling Elton’s eccentric shoes and isn’t at all miscast. Richard Madden does an excellent job as the semi-villain to the piece. Though the real villain here is Elton’s relationships with those around him, and especially himself. This is shown excellently in the symbolic final scene which could easily have crossed the line into hilarity but manages to keep sincere.
The performances are good all around, which puts this a step above other musicals. However, that doesn’t mean it holds back on the cheese (it literally takes to the skies at one point), but the genuine care and precision put into these elaborate set pieces prevent them from ever becoming overbearing. When it gets dark (and it really does) it highlights the depravity with a creative, and invigorating flare using camera tricks and alterations to the soundtrack to highlight the points of psychological turmoil. The tone is masterfully controlled throughout, swooping effortlessly through an abundance of filmic styles and aesthetics, and showing subtlety and restraint where required.
The songs throughout are excellently timed according to the situation, disregarding actual linearity, which is sure to irritate a few nitpickers. This decision is justified by the care put into their orchestration and their seamless incorporation into the plot. I have no doubt that some people will despise the direction that this film decided to take. It takes risks, but this is to its benefit. I’m not normally one for musicals but this is definitely one that takes off.