Elton John fans should see this movie. If you know very little about EJ and his music, it may make a lot less sense to you.
Elton Hercules John checks himself into rehab. In a group therapy setting, he recalls his life as a musical fantasy. There is his childhood, unable to get affection from his father. There is his mother, who, while supportive / accepting, warns him that his lifestyle will leave him without true love. There is his fortuitous collaboration with Bernie Taupin, and his relationship with his manager John Reid. There is his increasing reliance on alcohol and drugs (both prescription and illegal), eventually leading to rehab.
EJ's music is everywhere, highlighting the emotion of the moment. It could be an instrumental excerpt of a hit, a snatch of some lyrics, up to full song-and-dance numbers, including some more obscure songs. The songs are well performed by Taron Egerton as EJ, Matthew Illesley as young Reggie, and other cast members. The music may not necessarily be chronological, but serves the story, rather than stop and supplant it.
My references for this review are last year's biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, and Alberta Ballet's Love Lies Bleeding (a ballet using EJ's music and inspired by his life story). Rocketman beats Bohemian Rhapsody by several counts, including the use of music, and in not shying away from the main character's homosexuality - EJ and John Reid are shown being passionate with each other. The ballet, meanwhile, is a wonderful interpretation of EJ's music, but dance does not allow for narrative.
Here is where Rocketman lost its one point of rating. The ballet (based on when it was written) ended with EJ meeting David Furnish and finding love. Rocketman ends with EJ leaving rehab, and shooting the music video I'm Still Standing. His meeting and marrying Furnish, and having kids, are relegated to postscript text. This is the "normal" life that he had been denied, and thought he could never achieve, but this part of his life is very de-emphasized. Maybe at 2 hours, there was already enough movie (sequel, anyone?). Given that Furnish is listed as a Producer and EJ as an Executive Producer, they must be OK with the story arc. But I do wish for a personal (and not just musical) happy-ever-after ending.
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