Artpig (Brett)’s review published on Letterboxd:
Holy crap I did not expect to like this movie and for some reason this movie really did it for me.
I wanted to end up seeing this because in my youth (and still to this day) I am a big fan of Elton John and his music. The movie Almost Famous is one of my favorite movies and the use of Tiny Dancer and Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters in that film inspired them to become staples in my playlist in High School.
With that being said, I thought this movie was gonna be really lame. That is because last November I saw Bohemian Rhapsody and loathed it. Honestly, I still believe that is one of the most cringe inducing pieces of cinema I ever had to sit through. Since this seemed to be capitalizing on the success of that film- lets just say I was hesitant.
Then, the first reviews started to pour out praising the film for being unique. I still didn't really buy it for some reason but I was gonna go see it to see what the fuss was about. Well, I was in California when this hit theaters and when I came back home the film had vanished.
Then, I decided if I see it then I see it and if I don't then oh well. The amount of requests I've gotten from people to watch and review this movie is kinda crazy. I've had a lot of people wonder what my thoughts where on this and see a lot of people grow a communal love for this film that is pretty wonderful to witness.
This movie is a weird one- because it is very imperfect. However, I admire how this film just goes for what it wants and doesn't shy away from it. This is a really entertaining piece of cinema that simply is bolstered by one person- Taron Egerton. This man CARRIES this movie. I don't see someone topping best actor of the year from him for a while. This movie works because of his insane layered performance as Elton John. He absolutely destroys the monkish impression Rami Maleck does in Bohemian.
Taron feels like a real person here and embodies Elton so incredibly well. Not to mention- he actually sings Elton's songs here and he does them dare I say as good as Elton could himself. His energy and charisma here is electric and you just see a superstar in the making.
As well as Taron, Dexter Fletcher proves himself to be a really fantastic director. His scenes in Rhapsody were the highlights in a dumpster fire but with full creative control he is able to make a fantasia unfold. I mean, the editing choices here were so inspired. The use of color was electric and the way the film just moved was so euphoric. This film at times felt like a music video in the best possible way. It was just so much fun to watch.
However- they don't shy away from the darker elements of Eltons life. they go into the sex addition, drug use and overall ego Elton had to overcome to become a better man. There's a lot of character growth and understanding of empathy here and the film was able to slow down and elaborate on these things.
Yet, the film isn't all perfect. the weakest part is the screenplay which is elevated by what the director and Taron bring to the project. Simply, the script here is lacking. It rushes a lot of pivotal parts of Eltons John and washes over thievery quickly. There's a lot of stuff that if further elaborated on could have made really interesting and introspective drama that is kinda dropped. This is because, essentially this film is a jukebox musical where the characters get out of their seats and blast Elton John songs. That, at moments works really well and creates a unique tone for the film that other musical biopics don't have. However, at times it can come off a bit cheesy and an excuse to go past a scene that could have been more interesting and dramatic if they just dropped the songs and let the characters talk.
However, I think you have to look at Rocketman for what it is- a greatest hits album wrapped up as a story about Eltons life. For that- the filmmakers made a really electrifying and unique piece of cinema that has a bit more to say about the human experience then what I was expecting. This is the single biggest surprise film of the year. Heck, I won't be mad if they make that David Bowie musical now.