'Rocketman' accomplishes everything 'Bohemian Rhapsody' failed at
One day on the set of "Bohemian Rhapsody" Rami Maleck phoned Dexter Fletcher informing him "you can come to set and shit on the floor, you'll still do a better job than this guy." "Rocketman" is not the shitty mess that the inexplicably Oscar-nominated "Bohemian Rhapsody" was by a mile. Perhaps it's thanks to Sir Elton John giving Fletcher the freedom to make whatever film he wanted. The commercialized hopped up Coca-Cola commercial for Queen is not present in what is otherwise a traditional yet unique character study on the legendary Elton John that's filled with as much glitter and pizazz that would make Baz Luhrmann cum in his pants.
Beginning in a beautiful act of misdirection, Elton John struts through a hallway in slow motion decked out in the most flamboyantly loud costume imaginable straight into a rehab center. I kept saying to myself during the film's opening, "please let the story be told through here." To my delight, it was. Preventing itself from being another "Dewey Cox Story" "Rocketman" plays itself like a stage musical. Unlike most musicals, my attention wasn't immediately deflated the moment everyone started to open their mouths in unison because the music works within the context of the story. Whenever anyone breaks out into song, it's in Elton's head preventing the usual distraction of the fourth wall breaking aesthetic that turns people off from musicals in the first place.
Taron Egerton is dazzling as Elton John. I commend director Dexter Fletcher for making his actors actually sing in the film and sing Egerton indeed can. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise as Egerton recorded songs for "Eddie The Eagle" and "Sing." Every note is wonderfully carried emanating an eerie sense of Elton John himself. Where Rami Malick had his voice mixed with Freddie Mercury along with other artists, Taron Egerton did all the singing on his own. Aside from the vocals, Egerton pulls off every emotional nuance from the small to significant exacerbations flawlessly. It's a performance that I sincerely doubt the Academy will miss this year. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast can't carry their notes to the same degree as Egerton, especially Jamie Bell who's one song in the film is dreadfully out of place but luckily not enough to bring any of the movie down as this is a film where Elton John is our lead singer after all.
To compare "Rocket Man" to "Bohemian Rhapsody" is perhaps unfair considering the degree for which I'm doing it, but it's almost totally unavoidable. Not only because director Dexter Fletcher was the man who had to direct the rest of "Rhapsody" when Bryan Singer went completely AWOL. Not only because of the timing of the release of both films. Not only because of the apparent politics of even nominating such a forgettable picture for multiple Academy Awards. But because "Rocketman" is the movie "Bohemian Rhapsody" should have been. Remember way back when Sacha Barron Cohen left "Rhapsody" because the film wouldn't go with a more introspective hard R route that would have explored Freddy Mercury's romantic involvements? Remembered that fake PG-13 feeling that "Rhapsody" gave you? Well, Fletcher was determined to make the film that he knew was necessary to make. When reflecting on what he would want Elton John to think after viewing the film, Fletcher states, "I trust and hope, that Elton goes, 'OK this is not some bullshit." "Rocketman" spares no expense in getting personal. Elton's feelings for other men is placed on full display where I could spot the many disgruntled white male conservatives shuffling out of the theatre evertime Elton got to it. If your film is going to be about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, then restraint to appeal to the 13-year-olds in your audience is contradictory to the very story you're telling. "Rocketman" is unmercifully a true to the heart rock and roll tale.
The usual tropes are still in "Rocketman." Parental issues, the breakup with a significant other, the discovery of each new hit song followed by concert montages, drugs taking down the protagonist where he has to sober up, breaking up with the band, the abusive manager, reconciling torn relationships and the ending scrolls with pictures of the real-life figure. They're all there. Luckily the majestical musical numbers playing like fantasies in Elton's head along with the remorseless R rating makes "Rocketman" the film I did not expect or even want but to my surprise delightfully enjoyed. Thank you "Bohemian Rhapsody" for allowing us to enjoy this film more than we should through your monumental fuck up of a director. Elton thanks you as well I'm sure.