My Rating: 5 stars
I loved this movie. It’s the biopic of Elton John, starring Taron Egerton. I grew up with this music, so the movie already had the nostalgia factor going for it. But, it was also an incredibly well-executed film. I had thought I loved Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddy Mercury’s biopic), but after seeing this movie, I realized that I really only liked the music from that one. Whereas, this movie had all the best elements of Rhapsody—the big, singalong, music hits, great outfits, drugs, sex, and alcohol—but also featured many additional sweeteners. Those would include a good story structure, songs that progress the story line as opposed just being used as spacers, actors that actually sing rather than lip-synching, and more factually accurate plot points. I’m not really intending this review as a dig at Bohemian Rhapsody, but the structure and beats of the two movies are so similar, that it’s practically impossible to avoid comparing the two.
Taron Egerton stars as Elton John, and it’s a pretty amazing transformation. I didn’t recognize him at all for the longest time, and it actually took me quite a while to figure out where I’d seen him before (Kingsman). Because, he really becomes Elton John. I also never realized that he could sing as well as act. It’s pretty impressive. Elton John has a wonderful singing voice, and Egerton’s singing really does the music justice. This movie is more of a classic musical than Bohemian Rhapsody was. The songs aren’t presented chronologically, or in the context in which Elton wrote or performed the pieces. Instead, songs are selected for how their lyrics illustrate different plot points. It took me a little bit to figure out what they were doing, but once I did, it felt like the most natural convention in the world. The dreamy Jamie Bell plays Bernie Taupin, Elton’s lyricist, and he does a wonderful job as always. Of course, Taupin isn’t the same kind of public figure that Elton is, so I don’t really have a reference to know how accurate his portrayal is. But, I’m going to make an executive decision that it was pretty good, just because I like Jamie Bell so much. Either way, his acting is always great.
As is common with many artistic geniuses, Elton John’s childhood and relationship with his family was very traumatic. (Bryce Dallas Howard plays the mom from the black lagoon). And what would a rock star’s story be without a comically evil manager? I don’t know how a person thrives (or even survives) with so little emotional support. At points it seemed like Elton’s family members were actively trying to undermine him. All this is information I never knew about his life, and it makes all his accomplishments all the more impressive. But, it does help to explain Elton’s (now remedied) nightmare descent into booze and pills.
I loved this movie. I want to go see it again. I’d even consider going back to the theater, except that fellow audience-members generally frown on too much singing along. So, I may just watch it again in the privacy of my own home. I definitely recommend this movie, and not just to people who are already fans of Elton John. The story is objectively fascinating. And the music in this movie is intoxicating. Plus, the actors, director, and set designers have really created something special with this film. It’s one that I think is definitely worth dragging your butt to the theater for.