Rocketman opens with a shot of Elton John (Taron Egerton) dressed in full stage regalia bursting unannounced into an AA meeting. “My name is Elton Hercules John,” he says flatly, “and I am an alcoholic, a sex addict, and bulimic.”
This conceit—that the entire film is narrated by Elton John from the context of a group therapy session—says quite a bit about Rocketman’s intentions. Rock biopics tend to focus a little too heavily on the “creative process,” acting almost like VH1 Classic Albums reenactments and estranging laypeople who might not necessarily care how their favorite records were made.
But Rocketman leans too far in the opposite direction. (Painstakingly choreographed, Across the Universe-esque musical numbers notwithstanding.) You came to learn about how Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was recorded? Well, fuck you. Rocketman doesn’t only presuppose that its audience doesn’t know about Elton John’s music, it assumes they wouldn’t even care.
The result is insulting not only to the intelligence and taste of moviegoers, but to Elton John’s legacy as a songwriter, showman, and immensely significant queer idol. Rocketman’s Elton John is, instead, a coke-addled asshole who’s basically indistinguishable from any other rich guy whose ordinary problems are elevated and romanticized by our narrative-obsessed society.