Normally it happens that a film doesn’t live up to the sum of its parts. Yes, it has some good scenes and other things going for it, a great performance say, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Rocketman is the total opposite. You could rightly say that there is no character development outside the protagonist, that the musical numbers are unevenly spaced throughout the narrative, that we ourselves L & D could have written a better storyline. These and many other things like the flat ending, you could certainly ding this movie with…and D did, on the car ride after the movie. Though I agree with all the critiques, the sum of all these sideways elements didn’t stop me from liking the film.
First and absolutely foremost is the music. Even as I write this review, the song “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is going through my head. I’m not even sure if it was in the movie. It most likely was, but the point is that even several days later I’ve been singing all kinds of Elton John songs to myself…and it’s great. Who do I think would like this movie? For any Elton John fan, this is “must see TV”. Though it could be considered an extremely elaborate vanity piece, I was actually surprised that Elton John himself produced the movie. I don’t think it necessarily shows him in some type of perfect spotlight. It’s definitely a warts and all depiction. I didn’t know a lot about Elton John it turned out. For example, his most famous songs were written by his friend Bernie Taupin. It would have been fascinating to know about the inspiration for these songs. This goes back to the supporting character development critique. Rocketman could be read as a “buddy movie” where only the motivations and situations around one of the buddies is explored. But maybe Bernie’s story would be more justly told in a stand alone Bernie Taupin feature? So who else would like it? Anyone interested in a good gay coming out movie. Anyone interested in rock music of the 70s and 80s. — I’m increasingly convinced that no one made it out of the 80s unscathed. Who else? Anyone interested in stories about families and father, son relationships. I thought Rocketman had more in common with Billy Elliot, the story of a boy who wanted to be a dancer, with music by, you guessed it, Elton John, than with say Bohemian Rhapsody. In fact, though I have knee-jerk cringe that comes up when characters start breaking into musical tunes in the middle of scenes, I was thankful that Rocketman really told the story of a 70s/80s British rocker in a different way.
I appreciated that beyond the elaborate camera moves, choreography and stunning production value there really was a story in there about a little kid who wanted a hug from his dad that he was never going to get and about the same guy who had to learn to love that little kid. I thought it was a cool story and the flaws just piled up to make it interesting, different. Kind of how a camera lens with a bunch of aberrations can actually give a soft, warm feeling. — We didn’t like Bohemian Rhapsody anyway.
I’m not exactly sure what makes a great rock biopic. The clichés just kill the genre. I’m a fan of Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Though that is technically a documentary. I love Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains, though The Stains are not a real band. I remember liking Last Days, Gus van Sant’s offering about Cobain and 24 Hour Party people about the scene in Manchester in the 80s. Ultimately, I think Rocketman though flawed in many aspects will be remembered as solid statement about who Elton John was, what his songs meant and how he came to be the rock icon that he is.