Review of 'Rocketman'

rocketman.jpg Many that have seen “Rocketman” – a biopic-musical of Elton John – have said how much better it is than Bohemian Rhapsody – a similar film of Freddie Mercury – however, I would say they are two very different things. It is an unfair comparison. The later is more of a documentary-style while Rocketman is more of a no-holds-barred flamboyant musical. Which do I prefer? For sheer exuberance it has to be Rocketman…

“Rocketman” begins with a fully costumed Elton John (Taron Egerton) checking himself into rehab in California and admitting to being an alcohol, drug, and sex addict then proceeding to tell his story beginning with his difficult childhood with largely ambivalent parents ignoring Elton's incredible gift for music – There are several scenes where he demonstrates the ability to listen to a piece of music and is able to play it instantly. It is only when he teams up with lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) in what would become a life time deep friendship that Elton really starts to shine with Elton having the lyrics in front of him at the piano and instantly playing the song that “just comes to him”. He starts with music lessons then goes onto a Royal Academy of Music scholarship then finds an attraction to rock-n-roll first as a member of a backing band then in his own right when he is signed by the brutal music executive Dick James (Stephen Graham) where he plays his first break-out performance at “The Troubadour” in the US that firmly establishes him as a rock and roll star. Along the way we learn of his unhappy love life starting with producer John Reid (Richard Madden) who he learns has no interest in love…an unsuccessful marriage to Renate Blauel (Celine Schoenmaker)…a sad theme the film never resolves until the final “where they are now” sequence. As time goes on his extreme fame leads to his substance abuse and attempts at suicide to escape the emptiness…

This is an amazing, fun film that showcases one of the most popular rock and roll legends of our time. I call this a “musical” for the basic reason that the film will all of a sudden have it's characters break out into song and, often, dance. Not sure what other way you would classify this? In any case, it is a whole lot of fun that draws upon the huge back catalogue of Elton and, of course, allows particular story points to be accentuated by the lyrics of relevant songs, “Beyond the Yellow Brick Road” as he makes the brave decision to leave Madison Square Gardens and check himself into rehab, for example.

Egerton sang most of the songs himself which really adds a great deal of veracity to an already compelling and personal performance as Elton. His expressive face and utter commitment to the role is clear on the screen. Bell as his live-time friend Bernie Taupin is also extremely convincing as though he was born to the role. I do have to mention the tremendous performance by Matthew Illesley as a young Elton John who plays the role with great sympathy yet with the exuberance and moxy you would imagine the young singer would have had.

With Elton John himself as Executive Producer this is obviously a story told from his perspective and not entirely objective but you have the sense that this is an honest and sympathetic portrayal of the icon. Many of the supporting characters including his mother and father seem more than a bit one-dimensional but the focus here is on Elton not on them. What is important is how they effected his life and, indeed, a key sequence towards the end of the film where he directly, and reasonably, answers their life-time criticism of him – This is how he has come to terms with his amazingly successful life as a celebrity and finding stability and happiness.

A wonderfully fun and frightening honest film of Elton John that never fails to entertain.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2019-09-29

Directed by: Dexter Fletcher

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Year: 2019

Length: 121 minutes

Genre: Musical

Other reviewed films by Dexter Fletcher: