There is always a time in the writer's journey when they are faced with making critical decisions in plot development, character arcs and story. One thing for sure is that these decisions can either make or break a picture based on expectations and delivery.
Rocketman shot for the moon but found itself struggling to find its path. However, if you are a big fan of Elton John's music and nostalgia, you will find this film entertaining even though it is disjointed and keeps jumping from constellation to constellation in trying to find its way.
As a viewer I found myself asking: “Is this a musical, a fantasy or a drama?” I found the storyline dysfunctional, being torn between presenting Elton John's music in a series of music videos and his drama dealing with family, friends, drugs and alcohol.
Or is it a story about Elton John's sexuality and how it affects everything around him: his family, his friends and his career? This was complex material and clearly the director, Dexter Fletcher, and the writer, Lee Hall, struggled with finding continuity in the telling of the story.
Watching the musical numbers à la La La Land, the choreography and costumes were a treat and worth seeing on the big screen. The production design captured the flamboyant Elton John as he portrayed himself as a showman and used colour and sound to cover up his vulnerabilities.
In the first half of Elton John's life he was defiant and always struck out against those who wanted him to be stereotypical. The more oppressed he felt, the more he used his immense talent as a singer/performer to express his feelings and reach out to the world.
I very much liked the musical numbers; however, I was always looking for the genus of the songs and the seed of the idea. I wanted to know more about his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, and how he wrote such great lyrics, and about Elton and how he created the sound to accompany them.
I couldn't help comparing this film with Bohemian Rhapsody, where the story dealt with Freddie Mercury's angst, his sexuality and family, and at the same time his music and where some of the creativity came from.
Taron Egerton, playing the first half of Elton John's life, put in a noble but not award-winning performance. He executed the musical numbers well and acted the part as written; however, when I compare him to Rami Malek playing Freddie Mercury, I see one actor (Egerton) putting in a technically sound performance and the other (Malek) making his performance so believable that it suspended reality for the viewer.
Kudos go to the portrayal of Elton John's mother by Bryce Dallas Howard, for her screen presence and making her performance fun and compelling to watch.
So, is Rocketman entertaining? Yes. Will it win awards? Probably, for costumes and choreography, but not for the big categories. Is it worth the price of admission? Yes.
Did it do more than just scratch the surface of a rock idol and the complexity of his life? No. Did it achieve the “wow” factor? No.
For these reasons I give Rocketman three out of five tugboats.
Rocketman returns to the Patricia Theatre in Powell River on Friday, August 16, and runs until Thursday, August 22. Showtime is 7 pm.
Stephen J. Miller is a producer and creative writer in feature films and television, and past owner of repertoire movie theatres.