Friday, May 31, 2019

Rocketman - Review

The music biopic has been long labeled as formulaic, basic, and altogether tired. That is until Bohemian Rhapsody somehow won multiple Academy Awards despite fitting each of those descriptors. Now it seems as though the music biopic may never die, and if it wasn’t the case before, Dexter Fletcher insures it with the surprisingly creative and wildly energetic Rocketman.

An epic musical fantasy about the uncensored human story of Sir Elton John’s (Taron Egerton) breakthrough years. From his days as a child living through parents who barely cared at all, to his first meeting with longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), to the full on rise to stardom under the management of John Reid (Richard Madden). As Elton struggles with his homosexuality and a developing drug and alcohol problem, his life seemingly spirals out of control.

Rocketman is the film that Bohemian Rhapsody wishes it was. While it dabbles in some subgenre tropes, the framing of the star recounting his life before a big moment to name one, but it leaves so many others behind as well. The film doesn’t need a stage or a quiet moment of piecing together a song to deliver the music, instead giving audiences a full blown, fantastical musical.

The music actually pushes the narrative forward along with some expertly crafted choreography and colorful set pieces. Frequently bursting into song and dance along the way, the chaotic and magical numbers serve as twists and turns amidst the tumultuous life of Elton John. It’s an absolute roller coaster, a visual and auditory feast for fans and casual audience members alike.

There are some moments where the film can’t quite maintain the energy set forth by the musical numbers, but it has far more to do with the script than anything else. It definitely could have used some tightening to avoid some of the scenes that drag a bit, or the jumps in time with little way of expressing what events occurred. But even then, before the audience starts to realize Rocketman is still a biopic, a musical number breaks out again.

Any good biopic, or musical for that matter, needs a charismatic and capable lead. Fortunately, Taron Egerton finds himself in a role that he is perfectly suited for. He pulls off both the singing and the acting with ease, bringing the flair and energy necessary to pull off Elton John for the screen. Egerton is surrounded by other good performances as well, particularly Richard Madden, who chews up the devious role he is given.

Director Dexter Fletcher seemingly corrects many mistakes that were made on Bohemian Rhapsody, the film he famously took over after the firing of the previous director. There is an actual aesthetic to Rocketman, a visual idea that seeps into each frame and each moment of musical splendor. It’s a wonderfully crafted film from the costumes to the set pieces, and every other instance of design, Rocketman delivers extravagance in the best way.

Rocketman proves that a seemingly a by the numbers subgenre can always be reshuffled to produce something new. The film isn’t completely devoid of some cliches related to the numerous versions that have come before, but it does it different ways. Egerton is obviously a standout, who might just ride this all the way to an Oscar nomination when the time comes. By no means is it revolutionary, but you’ll be hard pressed to not love every second of Rocketman.

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