Hold me closer tiny danceeeer…except there is nothing tiny about Taron Edgerton’s performance as the pop-rock legend Sir Elton John; ungrounded by reality and a musical to the max, Rocketman is well-made and focused, but never gives you goosebumps the way Bohemian Rhapsody did.
Picture a gray room full of pouting faces. Elton John, still in a bright orange outfit from one of his concerts, marches in and admits he wants to get better. Right from the gecko, the contrast between John and the world around him is obvious and this is not only displayed through the more visual element of color. And that is where Rocketman really flourishes, in capturing the larger-than-life essence of Elton John’s persona. By going the less-literal musical route, and not the more realistic biopic direction of Bohemian Rhapsody, director David Fletcher is at an advantage when emphasizing the flamboyant nature of John’s career, with people breaking out in song and flying into the air. However, those who do not care for musicals and are expecting a film closer to Bohemian Rhapsody may be turned off by that.
The film also does a strong job at developing the story of Elton John’s life, from where he started and with who, to where his career blows up and he becomes an addict, to his lows where he pushes people away; having watched Rocketman, I feel like I have seen the best and most efficient coverage of his life that can happen in a two-hour runtime. The film focuses on how Elton had found himself in rehab, its opening, and then takes the time necessary to build up to that moment. I wish there were more concert scenes, or for the performance scenes to be longer than they were, the pitfall of that choice being it cutting into the efficient pacing I mentioned earlier but scenes such as these may have delivered the spine-tingling sensations the Live-Aid concert at the end of Bohemian Rhapsody did. My biggest criticism of the film is it never produces an electric effect, the end result sitting with me like a safe musical such as Mary Poppins Returns; the film didn’t have me rocking out to Elton John the same way, and to make the comparison once more, that Bohemian Rhapsody had me with Queen.
Taron Edgerton is great, he is light on his feet, and is able to genuinely elevate the disparity between the highs and lows of Elton John’s career; his energy truly makes the film feel alive. Edgerton shows he can be more than the guy from Kingsman, but I doubt this performance will be remembered by awards season. There are a couple times with other actors where lip-synching seems obvious, but that could just be me. Maybe Jamie Bell’s voice really does go that high.
Underneath all the glittery costumes and chart-topping songs is a solid film, but what caps Rocketman’s potential impact is its choices of what to and not to include. 8/10