Tag Archives: Bryce Dallas Howard

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 152 – Rocketman

A musical biopic that understands its own music, that uses its songs not necessarily when they’re chronologically appropriate but when they fit emotionally and thematically, Rocketman beautifully and energetically tells the story of Elton John’s rise to and struggles with fame. Taron Egerton is notable for his work in the Kingsman films, but here he is given a true star role, imbuing his Elton with attitude, presence, and a bolshy walk. And, for the two of us in particular, it does us the great favour of giving us a new appreciation for the music, helping us realise that each of us has always taken both it and Elton’s cultural importance for granted.

The film is produced by Elton, functioning as a sort of autobiography, and although this justifiably raises questions of authenticity, honesty, filtering and bias, the film and man are so likeable, and the way in which it depicts his lowest points so open, the film completely sells its story and depiction of Elton’s character and those around him. (Though, as José describes, the coda in which we’re shown a modern, married, parental Elton, who is nothing like the one whose story we’ve just been told, does suggest that for all the authenticity we feel during the film, the message we’re left with is a somewhat disappointing, “anyway, that was a different Elton, I’m not him any more”.) Similarly, certain tropes common to gay stories, such as pining for a straight friend, being isolated emotionally, and being preyed upon by another, more confident, gay character – something we criticised Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody for – are here rendered convincing and understandable.

We fall in love with its style and storytelling strategy, the risks it takes in building slightly cheesy set-pieces, set-pieces that indeed reflect a certain amount of cheesiness present in Elton himself. The film impressively and confidently narrativises its music, flowing into songs, turning emotionally-charged conversations smoothly into musical numbers, liberal new arrangements allowing Elton’s entire family to share their loneliness in I Want Love and making Elton’s decision to enter therapy a moment of trumpet-worthy triumph. José doesn’t go for the climactic moment with Elton’s childhood self, but Mike is with it completely, tearing up – before Elton could heal, before he could love, before he could fight all his addictions and fears and pain, he first needed to learn to love himself!

Rocketman is simply wonderful. It deeply understands its own music and freely reworks it to give it new life and teaches us to love and appreciate it all over again. It’s lively, funny, imaginative, bold and entirely engrossing. Don’t miss it.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

A Note on Hairdos in Jurassic World

Repressed hairdo
Repressed hairdo

Has anyone done a book or thesis on hairdos and film? A day after seeing Jurassic World, the only thing I find vaguely amusing about the film is that Bryce Dallas Howard’s hair goes from straight to ‘naturally curly’ when she undergoes a transformation, just like used to happen to Jane Fonda and Barbra Streisand in the 1970s, except there the transformation was from uptight and repressed or wanting to pass for WASP to liberation whereas in Jurassic World it’s from running a huge corporation to letting go of control and giving herself to Chris Pratt.

Now that we take CGI for granted, seeing dinosaurs is not a big deal; and Jurassic World doesn’t offer much more than that narratively or in terms of spectacle. Even the look of the film doesn’t seem as colourful or luminous as I would have wanted; the action sequences aren’t particularly exciting; and some of the performances, like Irrfan Kahn’s as Simon Masrani, are simply not good enough. One is left sadly pondering on how hairdos in Jurassic World are sign and proof of a particular kind of ideological regression in cinema and wishing someone would make a proper study of it.

liberated/available hairdo
liberated/available hairdo

José Arroyo