By: Kate Olivares, Peak Associate
Music biopics are mv jam. Whether it’s Walk the Line or Straight Outta Compton, the three-act structure with the occasional music performance is a tried and tested formula for portraying anyone from Johnny Cash to NWA. And so, going into an Elton John biopic, I was expecting this familiar yet satisfying format.
Like Elton himself, however, Rocketman is different from the rest. Where most biopics attempt to follow a straight line, Rocketman zigs, zags, spins in circles, and absolutely sticks the landing.
In this movie, style is substance. It pulls no punches as it follows 20 years of Elton’s early career. Elton’s larger-than-life persona are not a mere plot point; his fantasy and glitz are the heartbeat of the film. The same goes for Elton’s music. It is completely inextricable from the narrative as it guides the story with originality and intimacy.
The musical numbers are superb, further accentuated by the long takes that showcase the talent flowing across the screen. The grand, splashy numbers include unforgettable hits like “Saturday Night’s Alright” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” — which make for unforgettable scenes.
The movie goes at a dizzying pace at times, smoothing and skipping over some rough edges, but the fantastical elements ameliorate this. Because of its graceful stylization, this offbeat rhythm and uneven energy make sense.
While Bohemian Rhapsody was widely criticized for erasing Freddie Mercury’s queerness and glossing over substance abuse, Rocketman does a better job of depicting Elton’s homosexuality and drug addiction. However, I wish biopics of queer icons fully depicted these parts of their private and public lives. While Rocketman is a step forward, it still shied away from explicit sex in a movie about a self-proclaimed sex addict. There’s still a long way to go.
Finally, as I speak of the style and music pulsing throughout the movie, it’s necessary to discuss the heart that pumps life into each scene: Taron Egerton. The unbelievable range the Kingsman actor illustrates iin his role as Elton John is Oscar-worthy. He’s delicate, frivolous, and intense, with an aphrodisiac of a voice. I don’t doubt that this performance will catapult the already beloved actor into well-deserved super-stardom.
Rocketman is a big bet in a frustratingly risk-averse movie industry. I implore you to not just see this emotional joyride on the big screen, but to support these projects to show they are worth our time and money. Because the truth is that we need more biopics like Rocketman: unafraid, electrifying, and a worthy tribute of a legendary performer.