Impressions: Rocketman

I could probably fill a full Impressions piece on this movie, but I don’t feel it’s my place. While I love Elton John’s music, I don’t actually know a lot about the person behind it, so that puts me at a bit of disadvantage. I also think there are important themes, like his homosexuality, that deserves to be commented on by someone in the community. For my part, I would like to touch on what I liked about it briefly.

I thought the idea of blending musical elements was well done. I am not the biggest fan of musicals (I am pretty open about this), but this movie managed to pull it off without feeling too over the top. My father, who dislikes musicals even more than I do was also fine with it. It’s worth noting that our not only being able to endure it but actually like it could have been based on the fact that it’s Elton John’s music, but whatever. The musical scenes are well done, it was a smart way to transition in life events, and it also gets at the heart of why so many people want to see the movie, his music.

The acting was solid, and while Taron Egerton stays firmly in the limelight, his costars all managed to shine in their own ways and help the story along.

The movie is a bright marvel with costumes and staging to match what we know of Sir Elton John’s style. It makes it even more of a gut punch that some of the flashiest moments are following (or included in) some of his darkest moments. I was uncomfortable with the Rocketman portion (even though it was what I was most excited for in the trailers) because it’s the climax to many scenes of his struggles, and I think uncomfortable was the reaction they wanted. It wasn’t that the moment was bad, it was one of the best in the movie, rather that it was for me the perfect moment of showing that the lights and the spectacle were often hiding something dark. I have a lot to say about that sequence but don’t want to spoil anything, only to say that it is not a happy moment, but that is largely why it had so much impact.

The more negative is wrapped up simply in the genre itself. Biopics, in general, aren’t my favorite. Due to the nature of the beast, they tend to be a touch formulaic (because they all have the same goal and there is only so much you can do with the narrative), but even worse for me is that they all tend to gloss over/rush through important topics. Rocketman is no exception. There is a lot to unpack from Elton John’s life at the time, but with a two hour run time, there was only so much detail they could into.

For my first issue with biopics, Rocketman doesn’t do anything to break the mold completely, but it manages to be interesting. Still having him narrate it while starting at almost the end is not groundbreaking. The issue I have with this complaint about the movie is that not every movie can be. Once again biopics are given a bit of a challenge in that being able to tell the story of a real person, making sure to hit essential life events, but then somehow managing to be a unique narrative experience. I actually appreciate that Rocketman allowed the music to be the distinctive part of the movie and just embraced what it had to do otherwise.

For my second issue with biopics, I don’t think I will ever be able to reconcile this fully. Sir Elton John from reports is happy with the movie, so that is good. However, watching some of his lowest points just be glossed over kind of bothered me. Again it’s a limitation that the genre just has. There is no way in a reasonable running time that they can really get into everything the way it should be. The problem is everything they should get into are raw, important, difficult, and necessary topics.

In the end, I liked the experience. It was well acted, great singing, solid enough storytelling even if it didn’t break from the traditional biopics formulas, and was a good movie. It was sad, inspiring, beautiful, ugly, a lot of great things. Has it convinced me that biopics can be more? Not really. It’s a good biopic, but it’s still a genre I don’t love all that much. If you are a fan of Elton John, I would say see it. If you aren’t, I am not sure this will turn you into one, or even if people see biopics for people, they aren’t fans of. I liked it and am glad I saw it would be my bottom line for this brief Impressions.

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