In Walk the Line, a music producer tells an as-yet unrecognized Johnny Cash that he doesn’t need any more gospel songs. Ready to dismiss him as another act doomed for failure, the producer asks Cash the following:
If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying,
and you had time to sing
One song people would remember before you’re dirt…
One song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth…
One song that would sum you up…
You telling me that’s the song you’d sing?
That same Jimmie Davis tune we hear on the radio all day?
About your peace within and how it’s real and how you’re gonna shout it?
Or would you sing something different?
Something real, something you felt?
Because I’m telling you right now…
that’s the kind of song people want to hear.
That’s the kind of song that truly saves people.
It ain’t got nothing to do with believing in God, Mr. Cash.
It has to do with believing in yourself.
With trepidation and little confidence, Johnny Cash then begins to sing one of the most powerful songs ever written in the history of rock or country, “Folsom Prison Blues.”
That is one big “AH HA!” moment. The kind of moment that the weak, ineffectual Rocketman never gets within a country mile of. And that is one of the keys to why, despite partial success as a musical, Rocketman is a broken movie.
As a drama, it fails utterly and completely. Compare to Love & Mercy, which as far as telling a story about love and finding happiness, stands as a minor masterpiece when viewed next to Rocketman. As a biopic, Rocketman face-plants. I.e., it’s a disaster. Even the supposed alcoholism of Elton John – low-hanging fruit – is mangled badly.
On top of all that: with all the music included, there is but a scant brush of “Candle in the Wind, ” and omission entirely of the obvious “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” “Funeral for a Friend”/”Love Lies Bleeding,” and “Levon”. There’s no rule that you have to include songs A, B, C, D. I have no problem including lesser songs to tell your story. I have no problem taking your own approach to the story. But if you’re going to do that, the result has got to be a lot better than Rocketman. Generously: a low 5/10
Comparison Notes: Crazy Heart, Shine, Walk the Line, Get on Up, Love & Mercy, Ray, Amadeus, The Doors: “Let me tell you story about heartache, and loss of God” — and does he ever
UPDATE 7/1/19: I don’t know why I was being generous before. 5/10 felt wrong the moment I typed it. This movie’s got some good music, naturally, but it peeved me. 4/10