Biopics have certainly been booming in Hollywood lately. The idea of glorifying a past figure wasn’t something I ever found appealing. Biopics toe a fine line between what is real and what entertains the movie goers.
I’ve personally always been left uncomfortable upon watching such films and more confused than ever about what to believe. Sure, biopics are entertainment like any other movie genre, they just lack the escape from reality, for me. During these movies I think too much about what said celebrity was like in real life, inevitably leading me to a Google deep dive.
I wouldn’t strictly classify “Rocketman” as a biopic, but it does cover a famous figure in a similar style. Point being, I was nervous going in.
I didn’t know much about Elton John, beyond his most popular songs and his episode of “Carpool Karaoke.” I was shocked by how the movie seemed to understand my exact fear about portraying a real person’s life and shifted accordingly.
“Rocketman” plays out in a way that toys with reality, bringing in a sense of surrealism to a very real story. The viewer is given the chance to escape reality for the ways the movie bends Elton John’s reality.
While it’s disconcerting at first to see magical scenes with people floating and to not have a concrete sense of time, the way John’s classic songs are used to tell the story, however applicable they were in reality, mold something entirely new from what can be read on John’s Wikipedia page.
The songs tell the story more than the actors do and all plot points bend to that effect. It’s hard to describe to someone who hasn’t seen the film. The best way I can think to put it is that each part of John’s life is represented by a song and the aesthetic to match the chaos surrounding the song’s creation.
I couldn’t tell you what age John was in any of the scenes or whether the movie even strictly followed the established timeline of his life. What I can tell you is that I am sure I felt the pain and loss and excitement of his tumultuous crash into fame.
The songs took on a greater meaning for me. They were already written in such a personal fashion, I didn’t believe that was possible.
I also cannot forget to acknowledge the fantastic performance Taron Egerton gave. He played John in a way that made me understand him from a completely different angle.
Yet a natural distance was maintained for the fact we will never truly know John. This in-between state worked for me, although it didn’t seem to for many critics.
What “Rocketman” did that has me recommending this movie to any music fan is that it merely put things into perspective for the world. The film’s purpose was not to change who Elton John is to the public.
Enhancing that image with the music John created is a far more faithful account of the story, as far as I’m concerned, CGI reality-bending aside. I don’t mind the extra sprinkle of magic. It was unexpected and served a broader purpose. Plus, it simply made the film more captivating.
I could tell the filmmakers spent a lot of time thinking about framing in terms of the start, the end, how to incorporate songs, down to the type of lighting used. It all further contributed to a story driven by artistry, which I will reiterate, is more faithful to John as a person than cold hard facts.
Another shock for me came during the credits when I saw that John was an executive producer. I’m still grappling with whether that makes the film better or worse.
On one hand that means the liberties taken with reality did not blow things so out of proportion they would be an offence to John’s life.
On the other, that means the story may have been overly glorified, hence the sense of romanticism underlying the entire 2 hours.
In short, “Rocketman” is an enjoyable movie for those who are willing to let go of any sense that what they are watching is real. Don’t let recent biopic releases fool you into thinking this is a coherent history of John’s life.
In fact, it’s a pretty terrible movie by that standard. This movie is about emotion and music. I would highly recommend the film, ergo only to a limited audience.