‘Rocketman’- Elton John’s Extraordinary Life, Told Through Song
Elton John’s Music Makes Rocketman A Movie Worth Seeing?
** Spoiler alert: Stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie**
Rocketman is an emotional and almost unbelievable depiction of Elton John’s life. The movie addresses Elton’s journey through his music and while it is not 100% factual, it portrays an exaggerated story of deep emotion and creative imagination.
Elton John’s songs throughout the movie spring from significant moments in his life. While the beginning of the movie is Elton John (Taron Egerton) talking about his life, in a rehab facility, the rest of the movie is dedicated to a ‘show don’t tell,’ viewing experience. The biopic, through many techniques like cinematography and musical motifs, takes the viewer on a memorable and iconic viewing experience.
Rocketman is set to Elton John’s most famous music, performed by star actor, Taron Egerton. Through watching the movie, we discover how a shy nobody becomes one of the most iconic figures in rock and roll history – international superstar, Elton John. As he blazes a path to the top, Elton creates a larger than life identity, while simultaneously battling his personal demons and the variety of challenges he encounters along the way. Rocketman is very much a one of a kind, highly entertaining and emotional ride, filled with show stopping musical performances.
Rocketman’s director, Dexter Fletcher and writer, Lee Hall, stage the musical numbers in such creative and inventive ways. The musical numbers reach a completely new level of meaning through the lyrics and almost make the audience feel as if they’re hearing the songs for the very first time. That’s a tough goal to reach, given that Elton’s songs have been classics on the radio and in movies since their release.
This is especially true of the ‘Rocketman’ scene, which flows brilliantly and covers substantial ground, it’s almost a mini movie itself. The ‘Rocketman’ scene runs through so many life changing moments, beginning with Elton’s attempted suicide. He falls into the pool, after swallowing handfuls of prescription pills and washing them down with strong alcohol. He sinks and finds his younger self at the bottom of the pool, singing ‘Rocketman’ to him. Hallucinating, or as a form of remembering his childhood, it is a very clever way of showing the audience how disappointed his younger self is, and in turn he joins in singing and realises how disappointed he is in himself, in letting his addiction get this bad, in forgetting who he truly is.
The music then fades out from diegetic to non-diegetic, as his rescue by the party goers and witnesses begins as a choreographed dance, rather than swimming straight down to him. Elton just watches. Pulled out of the pool, his mother is clearly upset, Bernie concerned watching over him and Reid calling him selfish, Elton is raced to hospital. The song becomes diegetic again as Elton resumes singing. The hospital staff drain the water out of him and then, with perfectly smooth, choreography and synchronisation, we see him being lifted and undressed. Just as quickly, he is redressed in a stage outfit and rushed onto the stage for his next show, with no real time to recover.
The quiet and intimacy of seeing Elton find his way through ‘Your Song,’ at a piano in the living room of his childhood home, is also surprisingly effective. Over breakfast, Bernie hands Elton a paper with some lyrics on it before heading upstairs for a shower. Elton sits at the piano and very quickly (20 minutes in reality) starts to find the music to go along with Bernie’s lyrics. After hearing Elton begin, Bernie returns downstairs and watches on, mesmerised, as the song comes to life.
Rocketman is a story about Elton John’s redemption arc. He started out as an innocent, naive child. His unaffectionate parents combined later with his abusive manager and boyfriend, hurt him terribly. Elton became a wild, drug and alcohol fuelled person, who hated the life he was living. Finally, he had enough, he went to rehab to help himself recover.
During rehab, Elton got the chance to say what he needed to say, to the people who had a big impact on his life. He thanks Bernie and tells him how much he needs him. Bernie tells him he loves him. Elton tells his mum they need to forgive each other, going forward. He tells Reid that his problem was he believed Reid loved him, but he was incapable. He voices his doubts about his own ability to Bernie, but Bernie still hands him new lyrics and the audience watches, as Elton rediscovers himself through the creation of ‘I’m Still Standing.’
The epilogue of the movie mentions that Elton has been sober for over 28 years. He is still good friends with Bernie and is now married to David Furnish, who he has two children with. He is finally loved properly. During the end credits, pictures of Taron Egerton’s performance are shown side by side the real life images of Elton John, in matching outfits and ‘scenes’.