Elton John’s Rocketman & 3 Must-See Biopics To Binge Afterwards

By James Gallagher.

So Rocketman is out and with the box office success of Bohemian Rhapsody and the steady stream of 60s and 70s superstars falling off the perch, we can expect a few more to come in the future. So how does Rocketman compare among the list of other notable biopics and why does it work?

Rocketman:

Obviously ensuring the film is historically 'accurate' is important - but then again, glossing over the hedonistic reality of Freddie Mercury's life did no damage to Bohemian Rhapsody.

Most, if not all, of our favourite biopics have been questioned for skewing the reality of the past, or in some cases, blatant fabrication of the truth.

It's like believing the story of the Rolling Stones is as the Glimmer Twins would have us believe - history is written by the winners and in the entertainment business, everyone wants to be a winner.

So despite being produced by Elton John through his company Rocket Pictures, Rocketman delivers one of the more realistic portrayals in recent memory, blending the loneliness and troubles of our favourite croc-rocker with the exuberant, over-the-top numbers that made him a star.

Rocketman could've easily gone the route of glammed-up glitter porn but skating that thin line ever so delicately means viewers are taken to a more 'real' depiction of the entertainment world through the eyes of Elton and his entourage.

Don't get me wrong, the costume department would've been going bat-shit crazy making this, its completely bonkers - this is the story of Elton John though, what else would you expect?

But it’s not all white mountains and sparkled onesies, the low's hit hard and come on the back of many of the highs but led by Taron Egerton as Elton, Rocket Man resonates where others may fall into a cartoonish caricature of their protagonist.
Egerton totally consumes the role of Elton, it is one of the best performances of its kind in a long time.

Performing all of the songs himself makes Rami Malek's Freddie Mercury look like he should be at the Strathfield RSL Club's Queen tribute night - and didn't he win an Oscar for that?

Director Dexter Fletcher, funnily enough, was roped in to finish off Bohemian Rhapsody after its original director Bryan Singer was fired and you can tell.

Fletcher is the high school student who had the end of year exams dropped in his lap a week before he sat it - he's managed to avoid the mistakes made in Bohemian Rhapsody but he hasn't answered every question correctly - so as not to arouse too much suspicion.

In short: Rocket Man is well worth the watch, its a real good time without being too full on and for that it deserves a bit more attention than it probably has received - maybe they need more sequins?

Control:

Picking up where Rocketman left off is definitely not the category Control falls under. Directed by Anton Corbijn, this brooding look at the breakout, rise and subsequent capitulation of Joy Division's iconic frontman has to be at the top of most people's must-watchlists.

Based loosely on the book 'Touching from a Distance' written by Ian Curtis' wife Deborah, Control is the haunting look at the days and events of the late 70s post-punk band in the midst of a wounded Britain.

The entire look and feel of this film is light years from Rocketman, and all the better for it.

The portrait of Curtis' tortured life is entirely shot in black and white adding weight to every shot and the solemn wasteland of a world that corrodes at Curtis till the very end.

Control stands the test of time and is a beautiful snapshot of the crumbling world around Curtis that led to his eventual demise.

Sam Riley's performance as Curtis is mesmerising and not just in his ability to mimic the frontman's movements, there aren't many better performances going and should be worth the watch alone.

From the growing popularity of Joy Division to his crumbling marriage - Riley takes the manic, introverted world of Curtis in his hands and creates one of the more humbling portraits of 'the tortured artist'.

In short: A step away from the perhaps better known 24 Hour Party People, Control is essential viewing - if only to give you some extra creedo flashing that Unknown Pleasures t-shirt about.

Ray:

Ray is the story of Ray Charles (what!?) and whilst there are plenty of other biopics worth a mention I couldn't go past the influence he had on the world during his existence.

He completely changed the game at a time when a blind, black guy doing so in America would've raised more than a few eyebrows.

I thought about mentioning something with a bit more of a sunnier disposition but that's kind of hard given the genre we're working with here.

The thing with biopics is it makes it easier to write one if it’s about a mesmerising figure with a closet full of skeletons and Ray Charles certainly fills each quota and then some.

His story is heavy, like all the boxes ticked kind of heavy, but never letting them get the better of him he transcends the Seattle jazz scene and goes on to blaze a trail as bright as any before or since.

And then, of course, Jamie Foxx shows up to throw down one of the best performances of his career, that’s saying a bit considering you've got a pretty solid all-rounder here.

Not too over-the-top and not so grim that you want to lock yourself on a balcony - Ray has found the right formula albeit one that is pretty stock-standard.

Directed by Taylor Hackford and released in 2004, Ray kick-started the attempts of Hollywood to dig up the past and you can tell this was definitely a measure for all other producers in the subsequent years.

But it's hard to find actors who can really nail someone else's mannerisms, style and voice and while Foxx didn't sing on any of the songs featured, he did play the piano on them which I would think is just as difficult.

But while Charles' voice is inimitable Foxx delivers one of the more accurate portrayals of the genre - obviously deserving of the accolades that came his way as a result.

Kerry Washington stars as well - and well, it's Kerry Washington, has she ever been bad in anything?

While this isn't as extravagant as Rocketman, Ray isn't as grim as Control either and the cliché of humanity overcoming obstacles plays out a little too often here but it's not aggravating enough to turn away.

In short: Ray has its flaws, its not a perfect biopic but it is well worth a look if only to appreciate how hard it was for a black performer to do what Charles managed in a time when the rights of especially black performers were virtually non-existent. You couldn't write a fictional screenplay with the same plot as Ray - it would seem too unbelievable and that alone is reason enough to watch this film.

 

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Yes, this is a complete piss-take of a movie, but I'll be damned if this sends up of the genre isn't one of the funniest and arguably accurate depictions of an era long gone. It almost goes full circle in much the way Spinal Tap did, a parody that's probably a little too accurate for some to stomach.

Making an accurate depiction of someone would have to be one of the harder jobs in Hollywood and where some may falter, others stand tall.

Who in their right mind would want to wade through the murky waters of our musical icons' past to present a warts-and-all biopic that both satisfies the fans - and keeps the swarm of artists' lawyers from knocking down the door?

Well for one, director Adam McKay and scriptwriters Judd Apatow and Jake Kasden, who took the historically vague story of the late, great Dewey Cox and made it one of the most important biopics of our generation.

Born without his sense of smell, Dewey Cox's life was one of desperation and tragedy that shaped who he was to become as an artist later in his adult life.
As a young boy, he cut his much-more talented older brother in half with a machete, taking with it his only chance at a carefree, happy childhood. The death of his brother tears the family apart and the constant reminders from his father that "the wrong kid died", leaves a lasting scar on Cox that never truly heals.

It's through the eyes of Dewey that we see the world of rock n' roll for the rollercoaster it truly was and the tortured soul of a man still reeling from cutting his brother in half.

In short: Walk Hard, The Dewey Cox Story is still better than half the films they're taking the piss out of and for that it should stand as the yardstick that we measure all biopics by.

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