Be Uplifted by “Rocketman”

Rocketman Taron Egerton as Elton John Photo Credit: David Appleby

Be uplifted with Rocketman

You may not be transported to outer space, but Rocketman is sure to make your spirit soar. It’s such a pleasure to see a film with a killer soundtrack, amazing performances and costumes that make you want to dig out your platform shoes and join the fun. Yes, there are some dark moments in this Elton John biopic and there’s no sugar-coating depression and suicide–but it’s a tale of triumph that leaves you tapping your toes.

The trajectory of shy music prodigy to gay icon who’s an AIDS activist that has raised millions for HIV research with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, starts amusingly-enough, in an Al-Anon meeting. There’s a dimly-lit circle of folding chairs that can’t contain this out-size personality…let alone his sequined costume. Welsh actor, Taron Egerton, gives an incredible performance as Elton John. We open with the star having hit the skids and looking to save his life. Taron Egerton does all his own singing and it’s a transformation that Elton himself has applauded.

Director Dexter Fletcher who picked up the reins on Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer was fired, doesn’t shy away from the homophobia of the time. The young British boy, Reggie, is shown living a typical schoolboy life. He seems repressed and gets little support or attention. There’s an implication that his lack of physical affection and parental neglect lead to his constant search for a loving relationship.

The relationships that do bolster our aspiring musician; his grandmother, who was an early supporter of his music and then his writing partner, Bernie Taupin (played with charm and serenity by Jamie Bell), seem to be enough to sustain him till the crushing pressure of performance, drugs, alcohol and a manipulative manager/lover take their toll. There’s a great montage of Elton at the piano in his crazy costumes rotating thru concerts around the world. It’s fun to see the actual costumes at the end to see what a smashing job the costume department did on this film.

What didn’t work for me was the casting of Elton John’s mother. Bryce Dallas Howard is lovely but she’s too kind to portray this unfeeling, selfish character…it feels like too much of a stretch and came off false. Her aging make-up adds another layer of falseness in a film that seems to be aiming for a true representation of Elton’s life. Her portrayal seems a caricature.

There was a horrific attack on a British couple in the news recently: lesbians, beaten when they wouldn’t kiss for the pleasure of bunch of brutes on public transit. Watching this film, with it’s celebration of a Rock Star who has made his life a crusade to end homophobia, feels like a way to fight that darkness. Rocketman embraces the belief that you can live your life—gay, straight, bi, trans–and be fabulous. What a hero Elton John has been! Photos of Elton John and husband with their two darling boys living a happy life is a triumph over all of those brutish bullies. 

Go see Rocketman for a much-needed lift!

Inspired Cinema in 2018: Innovative, Universal and showcasing flawed human beings as Heroes!

72 film tickets which doesn’t include films screened for festivals, shorts watched on my computer or any of the 15 films watched on Netflix, rented from Redbox or DVDS!

This was a wonderful year for movies. No matter how you consumed them: via Netflix, at your local cineplex or at a starry Festival premiere, there was a broad array of offerings. A few of the sequels were as good, if not BETTER than the original films (Paddington 2, Incredibles 2, Bumblebee), our comic book films celebrated diversity and empowerment (Wonder Woman, Black Panther) and it was a banner year for documentaries (RBG, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Free Solo).

My favorite movies this year were two beautiful black and white films that transported me to another time and place with amazing cinematography and rich storytelling. Cold War, Pawel Pawlikowski‘s tragic love story tracked lovers thru a decade of Polish folk music to jazz in Paris. It was in the small moments when a stillness seemed to freeze frame the characters so we could study their emotions. The lush cinematography and the amazing, luminous performances of Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot really drew me in. The film had a documentary feel and was almost as moving as my favorite films from 2013, Ida, by the same director.

 Roma, Alfonso Cuaron’s personal film about life in an upper middle-class Mexican family home is also shot in black and white (by Cuaron). Told thru the eyes of the caring family helper (both maid and nanny), Roma reveals how the personal and the political impact and influence everyone’s lives. The casualness of how a normal day can be shattered by violence, transformed by a brush with death or unite a family to battle a brush fire; while the family tries to maintain security and stability. We may not suffer as much trauma but it’s a universal struggle to protect those we love that everyone can understand.

There were some astounding films this year. I was so moved by A Beautiful Boy (Steve Carell and Timothy Chalamet), and Ben is Back also explored the drug crisis with searing performances (Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts). Welcome to Marwen and Annilahation were visually stunning as was the sweet Paddington 2. Into the Spiderverse was a zany Pop Culture Spiderman that we didn’t know we needed.

There were some great explorations of race and gender this year in film. My favorite was Blindspotting. I had to see Black Panther and Wonder Woman twice! And cheered for RBG AND On the Basis of Sex. One of my favorite moments at the movies this year was Edna Mode in The Incredibles 2 transforming into Aunt Edna and hustling the exhausted Dad (Bob, trying to be a Super Dad) back home. I felt that this year, the movies gave us some heroes that were flawed and all the more likable for it. Our society is changing. How we perceive ourselves and others is changing. Our films should too.

There may well have been other films I would’ve ranked in my Top 10 if I’d made one, but I know I missed seeing some great films this year: Madeline’s Madeline, Happy as Lazzaro, Private Life, The Rider, Support the Girls, Let The Sunshine In, Capernaum, Never Look Away, Burning, and Shoplifters.  A few I’ll be able to see on Netflix or Hulu, and a few that may still screen at an arthouse cinema somewhere.

Follow me on Instagram for snapshots of films as I see them.

See you at the movies my friends!

Boy, Oh Boy, which film about a young man in crisis should you see?

As we head into Awards Season, there’s one sure bet. At least one film about a young man facing a crisis will be garnering nominations…and possibly all three. Beautiful BoyBoy Erased, and Ben is Back not only love the letter “B” — they all explore families struggling with addiction or homosexuality as they try to find a way to love their son while his actions threaten to destroy their family life. All three films showcase heart-felt performances by two talented young actors.
Lucas Hedges (Academy Award nominee for Manchester by the Sea) in both Boy Erased, as a Christian teen in conversion therapy and Ben is Back, as a drug addict determined to spend Christmas with family.
Timothée Chalamet (Golden Globe nominee) in Beautiful Boy is the affluent teen who spirals out of control with a meth addiction.

Having seen The Miseducation of Cameron Post, starring the talented
Chloë Grace Moretz, it‘s hard not to compare Lucas Hedge’s performance to hers and find it less-assured. Boy Erased is also about conversion therapy but it’s also a moving look at the relationship between this traumatized young man and his parents. Nicole Kidman gives another nuanced performance as a woman who loves her husband (Russell Crowe) and their religious life, but knows her son is hurting and damaged by the church dogma and this awful practice of forcing him to be someone he’s not.

Ben is Back features another mom/son relationship. Julia Roberts is receiving lots of critical acclaim for her performance as a woman determined to save her son even as she realizes she’s let a demon back into her home. Lucas Hedges is convincing as the young man who knows the truth about his addiction.

When a movie is set in an area you’re familiar with, like Marin County was for me in Beautiful Boy, I think it tends to draw you in even deeper into the story. The juxtaposition of gorgeous settings with depraved behavior made it even more unsettling. For me, the interactions between Steve Carell’s devasted dad and Timothee Chalamet’s helpless lying boy left me weeping and wanting to read both books based on this real struggle: Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines.

If you’re only going to see one film of the three, my recommendation would be Beautiful Boy. Heart-breaking but hopeful, and the performances are Award-Worthy. This film is beautiful, mesmerizing and reveals the difficult truth that letting go when all you want to do is hold on, is sometimes the only way to save the one you love.