(EDDIE THE EAGLE)
Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden and Bryce Dallas Howard
It’s hard to know what to make of this toe-tapping Elton John biopic (if you can call it that). It’s certainly a fun ride for fans of the showman’s legendary tunes, but it’s not the movie to go to if you’re expecting an unflinching account of the man behind the sequins.
Going into Rocketman I was hoping to come out of the experience knowing more about Sir Elton and what makes him tick than what I did before, sadly this wasn’t to be the case. That’s not to say that the journey the audience is taken on isn’t an enjoyable experience, it’s just lacks the depth to make it remarkable.
The story begins with Elton entering rehab in the 1980’s and through a series of flashbacks and musical numbers we are told of his journey from early childhood to the events that lead him to this critical juncture in his life. The main difference between Rocketman and other musical biopics (most notably the recently successful Bohemian Rhapsody) is the way it uses the artists music to paint the picture. This is more akin to a stage musical than a traditional biographical film in the way that song and dance numbers and injected into the storytelling, but the downside to that is, these songs aren’t the story of John’s life, they’re the imagination and experiences of longtime musical partner and lyricist, Bernie Taupin. The songs are also not used even remotely chronologically, so it’s hard to pick up on the essence of their relevance. This leads to an inauthentic experience when you really want to scratch the surface of Elton’s larger than life personality.
A main issue that was always going to be prevalent when the subject is a living figure who had a great deal of control of the storytelling process, is that there are obvious factual gaps. Often Elton is portrayed as a sympathetic figure, one that’s not been loved enough or treated well by those around him. The characters here are all so incredibly black and white, which is such a contrast to the colourful world of Elton John. Everyone depicted here is either good or bad, there is very little in between, which is rarely the case of real people. From all accounts, Elton John has just as much ‘bitch’ in him as the next person, although you wouldn’t know it from this film. There are also places he clearly doesn’t want us to go, such as his 4 year marriage to musical engineer Renate Blauel. Given such a big focus of the film is his struggle with his sexuality and his homosexual relationships, you’d think his marriage to a woman would be more than just a ‘yeah, so this happened’ moment of the film.
The cast were consistently good throughout the film, without really having to get out of second gear. Taron Egerton as John was believable enough, but lacked a little of the je ne sais quoi that’s needed to pull off such a larger than life persona. Bryce Dallas Howard was an unusual choice to play Elton’s mother, but she did a fine enough job with what she was given to work with.
Upon leaving the film, I can’t help but feel that this should have just been a stage musical, it feels like it was made for that purpose. In that format, it would likely have been a remarkable hit and would undoubtedly have left a more memorable legacy. As it is, Rocketman feels much more like a publicity tool to drum up album sales as John heads into retirement. Unlike other biopics, you leave this film knowing little more about the subject than when you entered the cinema. The main lasting impression of this film is the reminder of just how many incredible hits this legendary virtuoso has had, which I dare say is enviable in itself.
Moviedoc thanks Paramount Pictures Australia for the invite to the screening of this film.