I spent a lot of Fathers’ Day watching films, beginning with Rocketman as a promise to my daughter, who loved it so much that she paid to see it three times. Then, wishing to make comparisons, I rented Bohemian Rhapsody.
I had walked wide circles around that one before, failing to imagine how anyone could do it, or rather Freddie, justice.
It was in fact a little surprising to have found with strong possessiveness over Mercury’s story. After all, roughly calculating the hours I’ve spent listening to Elton John vs. Queen, Elton would easily run circles around Freddie because his music has permeated events of my life to a greater degree through the instruments of musical friends.
I didn’t fall in love with Queen until my 30s, but THEN it was, “Oh, wow.”
Freddie is clearly the more tragic figure – also the more naturally flamboyant, which makes him delightful to watch. But most importantly, he is not alive to validate nor invalidate what has been done with his life story, so feels vulnerable to me.
I can’t help but think he might have added nuance in a few needed places, such as regarding the tenderness of relationships other than with his first love.
I didn’t want to like the film.
[potential spoilers ahead]
In the end, I found both films to be tender with their subjects. Artistry-wise I liked quite different things, but what I slightly disliked, hinged upon the handling of the music itself.
Bohemian Rhapsody was lip-synced, which strangely didn’t bother me. Rami Malek’s physical embodiment felt so genuine that I wasn’t put off by his lip-syncing at all. I felt that not thinking about the music, a la “I like (or dislike) this better than the original, etc.”, kept my attention with the story.
I would describe what was done with Elton’s story and catalog of music as, “translatable to stage.” Choices made to adjust to the pace of the story and Taron Egerton‘s voice, make total sense when putting the concept itself at the fore.
Rocketman is certainly the more conceptual. Think Across the Universe with a bigger budget. I’m a fan of Across the Universe, and covers of Beatles music generally, but until today there wasn’t a single Elton cover I deeply liked, even when sung by artists I value. His voice is simply fused with his songs for me.
Although I did find THIS playful rendition:
The presence or absence of fathers in shaping a life, features prominently in Rocketman, and must have been the main story Elton wanted to tell as the hook to understanding his longings… the depths he sank to, the fits of ego that possessed him. Longing has shaped many artists – to be reached for and loved, seen and known.
My longing is to make sense of everything in some cathartic way. It is a fairy tale of finding a magic key that once turned, will make ‘it all’ always to have been worthwhile. It is some version of karma, but without punishments and rewards… something like, true character revealed.
I’ve had experiences of this kind of closure in vision-dreams before. Once the curtain falls, everyone bows, acknowledging the roles that were played and why. The last dream of this sort was seeing my step-father, the night that he passed away and before I knew.
He was surprised to find me there to see him off, since we’d shared such a tragic history.
When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your– Totally Fake Buddha Quote
head back and laugh at the sky.
Addiction features prominently in the musicals too… addiction to whatever can stop the consuming pain of a primal need going unfulfilled, such that of a present father.
Or the pain of understanding there will always be knowledge that can’t be filled in… understanding you would have had to have received from the get-go or along the way.
Therefore, we will always require the kindness of others. We will always need others to empathetically imagine us as though we had been given all those pieces. Or to see the ways in which what is missing makes us the extraordinary beings we wonderfully are.
The tragedy for those who become famous may be that the rest of us can imagine that there is more we could do to finally receive love. To reach the pinnacle of achievement in the world and find it ‘still not enough’, must be hard to bear.