Following in the wake of Bohemian Rhapsody’s massive success with the story of Freddie Mercury comes Rocketman, a fantasy musical biographical drama based on Elton John’s breakthrough years. Elton John is best known for his zany glasses, outlandish outfits, brat attitude, shopping sprees and smash hits. While the pop artist’s record sales accounted for a hefty percentage of global sales, his legacy continues today with regular airplay, much adoration and even playful ridicule. Born Reginald Dwight, his rock star image has always preceded the man, making it anyone’s guess as to his enigmatic formative human years.
Rocketman is an emotional journey, detailing Elton John’s difficult and influential relationship with his father, who abandoned the family. Grappling with his sexual identity, victim mentality and explosive fame, we get a better understanding of the Elton John of today. While he may be living on a planet of his own right now, there was a time when he was just a kid looking for love. Much like Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman encapsulates the essence of yet another prolific, world famous music icon. Starting from his childhood and growing up in a dysfunctional family, we get a glimpse of the piano prodigy who started small and worked his way through the ranks. A truly gifted musician with a great ear and strong voice, Reginald Dwight found his groove when he paired with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, later changing his name to Elton John.
Taron Egerton truly owns the part, adopting John’s mannerisms, singing and immersing himself in the life and times of Elton. While he’s always been on the fringe, playing a real person gives the actor much more substance to work with and the grounding to anchor the performance. A good likeness, accentuated by a range of glasses and costumes, Egerton’s secret weapon is his voice and dancing – doing enough to warrant the lead in the stage musical when it inevitably launches. While a noteworthy performance, he’s flanked by sturdy supporting acts from Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin and Richard Madden as his agent, John Reid. Although, it’s a great turn out by the entire ensemble with Fletcher managing to siphon pitch perfect emotional moments, which just add to the vibrancy and passion of Rocketman.
“I am singing… and now I’m singing more!”
Sleek cinematography and excellent production values compel this two hour film. Continually flowering from one scene to the next, there’s never a dull moment, operating with real flair, emotional awareness and a good understanding of psychology. Cleverly harnessing the musical genre, bringing the songs to life with biographical impetus and a twinkle in the eye, it’s a mesmerising and entertaining tour of Elton’s rise to fame. Reminiscent of Across the Universe for its colourful exuberance and psychedelic showmanship, it’s the kind of film you could watch again… gliding from one memorable moment to the next and underpinned by his catalogue of stirring music.
The film does make a slight detour as it strays away from the life-giving chemistry of the songwriter-musician pairing, but brings everything back together for an emotional and satisfying conclusion. Rocketman makes an honest, visceral and wonderful tribute to Elton John’s musical history and career. A vanity project in one sense, it’s infused with fervent passion and a powerful universal message about self acceptance and love that anyone can appreciate.
The bottom line: Exhilarating