I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words,
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.
Before I get started, just a heads up that I’ve been holding onto my feelings for this film for two weeks. I have no chill when it comes to Elton John, and this is very much another “Hadestown” situation. So, prepare yourself for another love letter…
Just so there’s no confusion, director Dexter Fletcher’s “Rocketman” is a full-out musical. If you’re expecting a traditional biopic you’ll have to look elsewhere. The film takes off at full speed from the very first note and doesn’t stop until the end of the credits. It’s a wonderfully wild ride through some of the greatest music and lyrics you’ll ever hear.
Taron Egerton’s Elton John bursts onto the screen in all his bedazzled, winged-devil glory. He’s at the height of his career and at his lowest point personally. As the story gets going we see him start to pull back the curtain and the layers slowly fall away. Sometimes, with a great deal of show and flash. Other times, quietly and without notice, almost. By the end, we find ourselves with Reginald Dwight the man beneath the persona.
The journey along the way is one for the ages. Elton literally comes face to face with his past self throughout the film. We jump back and forth between a broken man who has decided to face his demons and the boy and man he became along the way.
Of course, when it comes to the iconic songs of Elton John, he is only half of the story. While he may have written the gorgeous melodies another man is responsible for those iconic lyrics — Bernie Taupin. Jamie Bell as the lyricist behind “Your Song” (and pretty much any Elton John song you actually know the lyrics to) is the constant, quiet calm to all of Egerton’s Elton’s over-the-top theatrics. They balance each other.
It’s this balance of personalities that led to some of their greatest songs, and it’s those songs that make this film truly soar. The orchestrations and reimagining of the music are mindblowing. They’ve been completely transformed. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is an epic, sweeping moment about the heartbreaking end of the partnership and friendship that started it all. It’s not just like you’re hearing it for the first time again, it completely transforms the way you experience the music.
Like I said, I have no chill when it comes to Elton John. He’s an artist who has been there at some pivotal moments in my life.
I came to worship at the altar of Elton John through a journey that many of my generation have taken. First, he was the man who gave us “The Lion King.” Later, he was the man who gave a voice to an oh so talented, charmingly bohemian writer in “Moulin Rouge,” which for me opened the door to a world of Elton John songs beyond “Circle of Life” and “Crocodile Rock.” Basically, “Your Song” was a game changer.
It’s a song that has a way of finding you. It’s a song that can stop your heart (in a non-defibrillator kind of way) and restart it. It’s a song for those lucky enough to have found love and for those of us who are still looking. It’s a song for literally everyone and anyone. It’s your song.
It’s this universality that has made Sir Elton John a cross-generational success, that and a touch of genius, a ton of hard work, and a lot of hustle.
“Rocketman” is an exploration of that journey and a celebration of the music he helped to create along the way. Music that has touched and shaped so many lives. Music that has been there for so many of us at the best and worst times of our own journeys.
It’s a fitting tribute to this genius who continues to share his gifts with all of us. And just in case it didn’t land the first time—it’s a musical and it is glorious.
…just for fun: