The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

Rocketman Fizzles On the Launchpad

Mark Archuleta

Posted on May 22, 2019 12:20

1 user

Where Rocketman really fails to find its voice, figuratively and literally, is with director Dexter Fletcher’s misguided decision to have star Taron Egerton sing the John oeuvre.

We’ve come to expect the usual tropes of the rock-n-roll biopic: nobody believes in the artist’s talent, the rise to greatness, it’s lonely at the top and the self-destructive behavior of too much sex, booze and drugs, and then the final redemption. On this, Rocketman never fails to disappoint, hitting every note dutifully.

Taron Egerton (Kingsmen, Robin Hood), despite possessing the cut-glass jawline of a comic superhero rather than the soft, pudgy features of the real Elton John, believably recreates the rock star’s exuberance and charisma. His performance is on par with Rami Malek, who won the Academy Award for portraying Queen front man Freddy Mercury. Gratefully, Egerton only had to act with a fake gap in his front teeth instead of a mouthful of prosthetic Chiclets.

The comparison to the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody is particularly apt, not only because of the proximity of their release dates, but also because Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher took over the Queen biopic when original helmer Bryan Singer was canned.

One notable difference between the two films is Rocketman’s decision to not just gloss over the AIDS crisis in the 80s, but ignore it entirely. Surely John who, in the film, is shown to participate in orgies with both sexes had to face some existential moments. Perhaps that’s where Rocketman wants to emphasize this film is a musical fantasy. The flights of fancy mostly work, except for the painfully cheesy moment at Los Angeles Dodgers stadium when Egerton literally reaches launch phase and blasts into the stratosphere. 

Where Rocketman really fails to find its voice, figuratively and literally, is with Fletcher’s misguided decision to have Egerton sing the John oeuvre. Elton John fans are in the theater because of his powerful and distinctive voice, not for Egerton’s passable, but thin imitation. The decision is even more curious when one considers that John and his husband produced the film. 

The story of Rocketman is framed around the clichéd rehabilitation group meeting where John relates his life story in flashback. The hole in John’s heart, we learn, is due to the lack of love he received from his cruel father and selfish mother. As we see, John fails to find true love, whether it’s with his male manager John Reid (Richard Madden) who treats him badly, or the woman he marries later in his career. In fact, the straight marriage goes from wedding to divorce in sixty seconds with no insight into why their relationship fell apart.

What director Fletcher and screenwriter Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) fatally miss, is that his platonic business partner and lyricist, Bernie Taupin (played by Jamie Bell), loved John all along. Unfortunately, the Taupin role is vellum thin and, just like in real life, his true contribution to the musical creation known as Elton Hercules John goes unexamined.

Mark Archuleta

Posted on May 22, 2019 12:20

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: NYT

Elton John at the piano and Taron Egerton at the after-party for “Rocketman” in Cannes.

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest