Why You Should Watch (or Re-Watch) Rocketman

With awards show season and winter break both approaching, this is the perfect time to catch up on all the films you missed during the semester. There are some incredible nominees to check out this year, but a recent favorite of mine that should absolutely be on your list is Rocketman.

Rocketman is a musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years starring Taron Egerton as Elton himself. The film received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture, and Egerton received a nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture–Musical or Comedy. He also received a Screen Actors Guild Award (SAGA) nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. 

There are so many reasons you should watch this film in addition to the obvious opportunity to bop to Elton John’s music for two hours. Rocketman is a high-energy biopic full of colorful costumes and fun choreography, and it’s honestly so much fun to watch. The film is uplifting and authentic in a way that mirrors John’s music itself. However, beyond its obvious entertainment value, it also provides a raw and inspiring narrative of Elton John’s journey towards discovering self-acceptance and unconditional love. It follows John through some of his most difficult and formative memories, depicting his most popular songs as growing out of these emotional scenes. Underneath the glitz and glitter of Elton John’s world, Rocketman retains a sense of authenticity that allows its viewers to fully lose themselves within its narrative. The film will make you want to sing and laugh and dance and cry; at some points, it’ll inspire you with its unbridled energy and progress towards self-love, and at others, it will absolutely break your heart— but that is exactly why it’s worth the watch.

Rocketman has received some criticism for what has been perceived as an overly sanitized account of John’s life, which is in many ways a valid critique. The film does seem to downplay John’s sexuality, showing one sex scene between Elton and his former lover and manager John Reid (played by Richard Madden) but neglecting to show almost any details of his sex life otherwise.

The film also almost fully glosses over homophobia in the ’70s, showing only small glimpses into this important aspect of Elton’s life with such little emphasis that they were almost more frustrating than emotional to watch. Inevitably, Rocketman has often been compared to Bohemian Rhapsody, the 2018 Queen biopic which received much of the same criticism. However, despite criticism of this aspect of the film, Rocketman still manages to tell an authentic and emotional narrative. This musical biography of Elton John’s life is complex, painful, and inspiring, and while it may fall short in some places, it appears to stay true to the man behind the story. As Justin Chang expertly explains in his NPR review of the film, “In the movie's most aching moments, Elton seems to be singing not to others but to himself, as if to suggest that even the most universal pleasures often have intensely personal roots. Before it was your song, it was his.”   

Whether you hit play for the emotional narrative, incredible music, or to thirst over Taron Egerton (because that is honestly a valid reason alone), I definitely recommend watching this film. Make sure to catch the Golden Globes on January 5th, and here’s hoping that the incredible work done to create this film receives some much-deserved recognition.

 

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