FlixChatter Review – ROCKETMAN (2019)

Directed by:Dexter Fletcher
Written by: Lee Hall

I’m always hesitant to review biopics; it just feels weird to critique a story about someone who actually exists, and it’s tricky to talk about the writing, because who am I to say if something seems rushed or melodramatic if it actually happened that way? Fortunately, this movie still gives me a lot to talk about.

Rocketman chronicles the life of iconic musician Elton John (Taron Egerton), from his childhood with a self-absorbed mother and emotionally distant father (Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh) to his meteoric rise to fame after teaming up with songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and his following struggles with substance abuse and depression, feeling cripplingly lonely despite being adored by fans all over the world.

Taron Edgerton with Bryce Dallas Howard and Richard Madden

While story-wise this is a straightforward biopic, it’s also a jukebox musical, incorporating several of Elton John’s more well-known songs into non-diegetic numbers used for exposition and scene transitions. It’s a creative use of the music, and I love that it’s used in a different context than just scenes of Elton writing or performing within the narrative. But the pacing is a little weird; there are a few musical numbers at the very beginning, but then there’s a long stretch without one, and the few that come after that are inconsistent. It’s a great storytelling method in theory, and the musical numbers don’t dull the darker aspects of Elton’s life; the titular song “Rocketman” is performed during a heartbreaking suicide attempt, and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” sung by Bernie Taupin after following an argument with a drug-and-booze-addled Elton John, nearly made me cry. I just wish the filmmakers had committed to the style a little more.

Edgerton (Elton) with Jamie Bell (Bernie Taupin)

Besides that, though, I don’t really have anything else to complain about. The cast is spectacular; Taron Egerton is perfect as Elton John, both dramatically and musically (Egerton does his own singing in the film). Jamie Bell is wonderful as Bernie Taupin, and he and Egerton have excellent chemistry. Richard Madden is amazing as the suave but slimy John Reid, Elton John’s abusive manager and ex-boyfriend. After only seeing Madden play the noble Robb Stark in Game of Thrones, I was impressed to see him pull off a much more villainous role.

Madden as John Reid

Obviously, I can’t talk about an Elton John biopic without addressing the costumes, which are just as spectacular as the music and the acting. Besides being beautiful and elaborate and wonderfully glittery, they play as much of a role in the storytelling as the music does; the movie begins with Elton bursting into a drab, gray room for a substance abuse group therapy meeting wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, matching bedazzled demon horns and enormous wings, and heart-shaped rhinestone sunglasses. As the scenes alternate between him in the group therapy setting and flashbacks of his life and career, he gradually strips the costume away.

Even if you’re not a hardcore Elton John fan (which I’m not; I spent most of my childhood thinking of him as “the guy who wrote the Lion King songs”), I would absolutely recommend checking out Rocketman. It’s a fascinating look at a musical idol’s background with an incredible cast and memorable music. It’s definitely a movie I plan on watching again.

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Have you seen ROCKETMAN? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – THE HUSTLE (2019)

Directed by: Chris Addison
Written by: Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Dale Launer, and Jac Schaeffer

The Hustle follows two con artists: bold and brash Penny (Rebel Wilson) and cool, calculating, professional Josephine (Anne Hathaway). The two meet when Penny travels to the glamorous French Riviera town where Josephine lives in the hopes of scoring some bigger cons, and Josephine feels there isn’t room for the both of them. The two make a bet on which one can scam a young tech millionaire, Thomas Westerburg (Alex Sharp) out of $500,000 within a week to prove which con artist reigns supreme-and Penny has learned more of Josephine’s tricks than Josephine might realize.

My biggest gripe about The Hustle is that the story it delivered wasn’t the story that was advertised; from the IMDB plot summary to the TV and radio commercials, the movie was described as being about “female scam artists […] who team up to take down the men who have wronged them,” and that really doesn’t happen at all. That would have been an interesting twist on the con artist movie trope, especially considering this movie is already a remake of a remake (1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is a remake of 1964’s Bedtime Story). Firstly, the two barely team up; Josephine briefly trains Penny in her more sophisticated scamming ways, and the pair does scam a handful of men out of expensive engagement rings, but the team-up portion of the movie doesn’t last long; most of the focus is on the two women competing, which is a pretty tired relationship dynamic. Secondly, the women don’t target “men who have wronged them.” While Penny does focus on men who are exceptionally shallow, and Josephine briefly mentions that men underestimate women, which is why it’s easy to scam them, none of it is personal; they’re just doing it for the money and the jewelry, which, again, isn’t exactly a fresh motivation for a con artist story.

The leading ladies are the movie’s saving grace; while the material isn’t brilliant, Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway do a spectacular job with what they’re given. Rebel has proved her comedic skills time and time again, and her performance in this movie is no exception. Anne is hilarious as well, especially when she’s pretending to be someone else for a con (her German doctor persona toward the end cracked me up), although as just Josephine she is a bit one-note. The supporting cast is good as well; Alex Sharp is genuinely likable as Thomas Westerburg, and Nicholas Woodeson as Albert, one of Josephine’s employees, gives an especially funny performance despite having next to no dialogue.

While the plot and dialogue are pretty forgettable, the acting is enjoyable, so while I wouldn’t say The Hustle is worth seeing in theaters, it might be worth a watch if it’s available on Netflix or any other streaming service.

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Have you seen the latest THE HUSTLE? Well, what did you think?