Taron Egerton is Elton John. Sunkissed in the velvet glow of the stage, voice ricocheting off the gyrating crowd, one could almost forget that Egerton isn’t Rocketman himself. With an electrifying musical structure and inventive cinematography, the Elton John biopic “Rocketman” captures the rockstar at his most nuanced and personal.
Taron Egerton, known mainly for the Kingsman movies, delivers a career-defining performance as Elton John. Fully transformed into the role, Egerton brilliantly expresses the subtleties of Elton’s struggles with sexuality, fame, addiction and acceptance. The ensemble cast, particularly Jamie Bell as Elton’s songwriter, Bernie, elevate the feature.
“Rocketman” tells the story of Elton John’s journey from a shy, neglected child to a flamboyant rockstar through the context of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Elton John sits in full concert regalia in the dreary room, telling his life’s story through flashbacks, musical interludes and imaginative sequences. This juxtaposition between reality and fantasy sets up the film, with factual events told through fantastical visions and dance arrangements.
Elton John has a comparable history to Freddie Mercury. With both of them being queer rockstars misled by the men they loved and muddled by addiction and fame, many critics worried that “Rocketman” would be a similarly bland biopic like “Bohemian Rhapsody.” While “Bohemian Rhapsody” was burdened by poor writing, a sleep-inducing linear narrative and homophobia, “Rocketman” is the tribute Elton John deserves.
Elton John’s very essence is reflected not only in Egerton, but the aesthetics of the film. From the rapid, circular camerawork to the flashy, rainbow visuals, “Rocketman” is fast paced, yet fully fleshed out emotionally in regard to Elton John’s character and his relationships. The film doesn’t shy away from blatant queerness and the reality of stardom, with gorgeously dizzying parties, pill popping and orgies.
The sex scene between Elton John and his manager, played by Richard Madden, is perhaps one of the most honest queer sex scenes in mainstream Hollywood cinema. Both passionate and tasteful, queerness is depicted as something to be proud of, despite society's restrictions. Hollywood needs more films that address the realities of being queer in a homophobic world, yet celebrate the diversity and vibrancy of the community like “Rocketman.”
Even if you are unfamiliar with Elton John’s backstory and music, “Rocketman” is an aesthetics treat for the senses. You won’t want to miss it.