A Film About Real Life, Based on a True Fantasy: "Rocketman" Review

Well, it looks like movies about musicians definitely made a comeback in the last year! And now it’s time for Elton John’s story to be told on the big screen. Rocketman brings elements of surrealism to the biopic genre, which is more than fitting when we’re talking about such an iconic personality like Elton John.

Directed by Dexter Fletcher, who was an executive producer on Bohemian Rhapsody, with a script written by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot and War Horse), the movie starts with Elton’s grand entrance into a rehab facility wearing an orange devil costume with huge horns. The character is in his rock bottom and finally having to deal with his addictions, his drug use and alcohol abuse. Through therapy he recounts his memories about the moments in his life that led him to where he is now. 

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First we’re introduced to Reginald Kenneth Dwight, a child from Pinner, a city in northwest London, England, with a wild imagination and a good ear for music. From there we see him growing into Elton Hercules John, the rock star. As Elton strips pieces of his costume, we see all the steps of his recovery and acceptance of himself. 

That makes it a movie about growth and healing, but it does that in an uplifting way. This feeling comes from Elton’s songs, which have the important task of guiding the movie and telling its story. They’re not just being played, like in other biopics, they are part of the story. So, yes, Rocketman is a musical!

The characters sing about their feelings and about things that are happening to them. And most of the surrealism present in the film takes place during its musical scenes. Like Elton’s first show in the famous rock club Troubadour on the Sunset Strip, in Los Angeles, when the audience is so enraptured by his music that they (and Elton himself) start floating off the ground. Just from this, you can probably already imagine how incredible the cinematography is.

  Image Source: IMDb

Rocketman is not afraid to do things differently. It’s also not afraid to show Elton’s highs and lows. The character’s moments of most success are also the most unhappy times of his life. Showing the singer going through a day, or a concert, while drinking lots of alcohol and snorting cocaine makes the movie brave and honest.

The story also shows Elton exploring his own sexuality through various relationships, including one with his manager John Reid (Richard Madden), until he comes out as a gay man. Nothing is left to subtext. “Some studios wanted to tone down the sex and drugs so the film would get a PG-13 rating. But I just haven’t led a PG-13 rated life”, he said in an exclusive article for The Guardian.

The acting is what gives feeling to the movie. Taron Egerton (Kingsman and Eddie the Eagle) delivers an Elton John in all his glory nailing all the pain the character was going through in various moments of his life. He also actually sings! Egerton had previously met the musician when filming Kingsman: The Golden Circle and had already sang “I’m Still Standing” in the animation Sing. You can say he was meant to play this part!

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Besides Egerton, the cast of the movie was filled with many talented actors and actresses. Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot and Snowpiercer) played, marvelously, the part of Bernie Taupin, Elton’s best friend and one of the first people who really understood and supported him. Richard Madden (Game Of Thrones and Bodyguard) definitely did his job when it came to making everyone that watched it feel various ranges of emotions towards his character throughout the movie.

Elton's mom, Sheila, who has quite the diva complex, was played by Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help and Jurassic World). In real life she seems like a lovable person, but on the movie not so much. She's almost unrecognisable while acting with a very well-done british accent - she is actually from California, USA - and constantly being rude to her son.

       

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The costume department nailed Elton’s clothes both in and out of concerts. As the character distances himself more and more from Reggie and into his Elton persona, his clothes get more and more flamboyant. The movie also depicts some of his most iconic costumes, like the sequined Los Angeles Dodgers jumpsuit uniform in 1975, the Queen Elizabeth I outfit worn on tour in Australia in 1997, the multicoloured chicken suit on Episode 214 of The Muppet Show, that aired in 1978, the feathered jacket and rhinestone glasses in 1973, in between many others. 

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In an interview with Harriet Hall from The Independent, the film’s costume designer Julian Day talked about what went behind the process of creating the outfits. For the chicken suit that appeared on a scene that showed a discussion between Elton and Bernie, with Elton trying to prove he’s the biggest person, “the height of the feathers was created to highlight the absurdity of the situation.” 

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On the Dodgers uniform, they decided to make their own version of it, by using 140,000 Swarovski crystals, because “they reflect the light even more than sequins”. When it came to the Queen Elizabeth I outfit, Day didn’t want to recreate the original look, which was inspired by Louis XIV, because Elton “was being extremely rude to the crowd so I thought, who is our most archetypal monarch? Queen Elizabeth I was this bombastic person so I thought, let’s dress him as Queen Elizabeth I”.

Rocketman is an unique movie and a true homage to Elton John and and all he contributed to the world in his 50 years long career. It’s worth checking out whether you like his songs or just want to watch a good movie. Here’s the trailer so you can start getting ready for this “based on a true fantasy” story. And just for fun, after watching the movie, you can answer a BuzzFeed quiz to see which iconic Elton John outfit from the movie you are.

Image Source: IMDb