Rocketman (2019)

“this year’s Bohemian Rhapsody”. No, let me nip that in the bud right now; this is not Bohemian Rhapsody. In terms of tone, structure, and style, this is completely different from Bohemian Rhapsody. They’re similar in the fact that they’re both biographies of musicians, but by that logic, Fawlty Towers is the same as Psycho. In terms of how it treats the subject, this is more like Get On Up than Bohemian Rhapsody. Whilst Bohemian Rhapsody builds the subject up, telling the audience about their greatness, this film almost delights in exposing their flaws. It’s brutally honest about the problems he has gone through and is so harsh towards them that if it wasn’t made with Elton Johns approval it would feel like a character assassination.

I felt that Bohemian Rhapsody’s biggest flaw is that it felt too restrained by the confines of the rating, it’s hard to tell that story under a 12 rating. Rocketman is a 15, and to be honest, it needs to be; if they toned down the drugs and sex this would be less of a story. The good thing though is that it never feels gratuitous, you don’t feel like they’re swearing for the sake of swearing, or showing sex solely for the purposes of titillation (although it did make me realise how rarely we see male gay sex in film).

I like how they told this story, it was almost a jukebox musical, the characters would randomly burst into Elton John songs in a way that could have been annoying. For me it really worked for two reasons:

  1. The story is being told via flashback, it’s Elton telling the story to people, so of course, he would express his history through songs he knows.
  2. It’s an Elton John movie. It has to be fantastical, it has to be out there, it has to be more extravagant than a movie.

That last point is very important. Bohemian Rhapsody was a good film, but it wasn’t a Queen film, there was nothing about the way they told that story that was Queen-like, it was a good film, but it was also quite standard in terms of the way the story was told (although the editing was ATROCIOUS for some of it, cutting way too quickly in conversations). The way they tell this story is very Elton John, it breaks the bounds of normality and does something unique and fantastic. And yes, it is fantastic in the way it looks. The set-pieces are unique and brilliant, it turns out Dexter Fletcher is REALLY good. The only film I’ve seen of his before was Eddie The Eagle and that was a different beast entirely. He did a part of the Queen movie (what was that called again?) but I can’t really tell which moments. He really should get plaudits for this, this had a budget of £40million yet looks larger. I genuinely believe if you gave him a Bond film he would knock it out the park (I mean, I still wouldn’t watch it, because ewww Bond). It’s not just Fletcher who deserves praise (but, and I cannot say this enough, he REALLY does), Taron Egerton does too. He gives a career-best performance here, him and Fletcher really seem to bring out the best in each other. It’s weird, he doesn’t look like Elton John at all at any time in this film, yet he plays him perfectly. It’s a bit like Michael Sheen in The Damned United (which you should all watch by the way), he doesn’t look like Brian Clough at all, but he behaves like him and captures the person’s essence so well that you cannot hope for someone to play them better. Actually, the best example would probably be Harry Enfield when he was on Spitting Image. He sounded nothing like the people he was doing impressions of, but he captured their personalities so well that it worked. It’s the same here, Egerton really captures Elton Johns personality in his performance (and his vocals are really impressive too).

So in summary: go see this film. Godzilla may be out now too, but this is true spectacle cinema.

Stan & Ollie (2019)

I recommend you see this movie, but with one caveat. It’s about one of the most famous comedy duos of told time, so you expect this to be highly comedic, right? That’s the wrong approach to this, go in expecting a drama and you’ll be fine. It took a while for me to adjust to that mindset, so for about half the film I was disappointed, then there was a scene in a hotel lobby of the two of them having an argument, a really heavy one. Not in terms of shouting and screaming, but in terms of the pure emotion on display. At that point a switch in my head was turned on and I got it. From that point on I enjoyed it a lot more. I get the feeling they used artistic license with history at some moments, but not too many. It seemed relatively honest. By which I mean it made them seem like dicks at times, it admitted they were not perfect individuals or ones who had just suffered misfortunes, but were in fact sometimes the cause of their own misfortunes. I like when biopics do that (for a great example of this, watch Get On Up, the film about James Brown which seems to veer from loving warm tales to a full-on character assassination depending what scene you’re watching).

I will admit to having never seen any Laurel And Hardy, but now I want to. I want to see how accurate their depictions are of them. I’ve heard people say they were spot on imitations, but I can’t really comment on that, all I can comment on really is the story, which was great. It was almost like a love story. Well, it is a relationship story, essentially. We see them at their best, and at their worst. When their wives join them it completely changes the interplay between them, for the better. The wives’ interactions with each other are delightful, in a cringey way. The pair throw pointed barbs at each other all the time, some subtle, some not, and they provide some of the best laughs of the film. It also provides the backdrop of one of the biggest heartwarming moments near the end. A moment which will make you think “oh no, don’t do that” but then be very glad they did.

The big downside is the pacing is a bit slow at times. And we’re not really shown enough background about them. But that is minor, this isn’t a film about Laurel and Hardy, this is a film about a very specific time period in their life. And that it does very well, you really get a feeling for how far they’ve fallen.

This film is very good, but it lacked that something that made it great. If it’s the best film I see all year I won’t consider this a good year, but if it’s the worst film I see all year then 2019 is going to be great.