DIRECTOR: dexter fletcher (eddie the eagle, sunshine on the leith)
starring: taron egerton, jamie bell, richard madden, and bryce dallas howard
REVIEWER: lyall carter
The story of Elton John's life, from his years as a prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music through his influential and enduring musical partnership with Bernie Taupin.
Whatever way you look at it, rightly or wrongly, Rocketman will be compared by audiences and critics alike with Bohemian Rhapsody. Which, in my opinion, is slightly unfair not only because Elton and Freddie had quite different personal and musical lives, but Rocketman is its own, very unique film. It takes big, bold, brilliant risks which they pretty much always pull off.
Rocketman offers us a glimpse into the life of Elton John from his years in an unhappy home with fairly unloving parents, to his life long song writing partnership with Bernie Taupin, and his battle with his very present demons.
The film follows the normal bio pic structure. The story is told in flashback from childhood, showing all the triumphs and tragedy that accompanied the subject of said bio pic. But its so much more than that.
Its an intimate exploration of the loneliness and betrayal that can accompany the rich and famous. We gain a window into how hopelessly lonely Elton was; used by family, friends, and lovers for their own selfish means.
His relationship with his parents, particularly his father, drives Elton's search for love, acceptance, and affection giving us some of Rocketman's most heartbreaking moments. The light that flickers in the darkness is Elton's relationship with his song writing partner Bernie, who's pure love lets him endure so much.
Rocketman takes the bio pic cardboard cutout and smothers it in glorious lights and glitter for all the world to see. There are musical dance numbers set to Elton's smash hits that are as intricate and show stopping as anything from The Greatest Showman or Moulin Rouge.
Even though these choices feel bold and fresh in the first act, in the final acts you are left wanting more of Elton's songs. They aren't always there in their entirety and sometimes you only catch mere snippets instead of the whole song. It feels, in some instances, that the more fantastically elements overwhelm the songs, denying us the pleasure of experiencing them in all their glory.
Taron is quite brilliant as Elton and has to be in the running come awards season. This is the most challenging role he's faced to date, and he is more than up to the task. His voice is pitch perfect filled with all the joy and tragedy of Elton's life. He communicates loneliness and despair with a mere look, making you feel as though you have travelled back in time and been a fly on Elton's wall.
Jamie Bell's portrayal of Bernie Taupin is vital in the film as this relationship is Elton's rock and anchor as his life is falling apart. There is a pure honest sincerity and love that seeps from his performance.
Bond in waiting Richard Madden is deliciously ruthless and Bryce Dallas Howard brings just the right measure of ice queen mother. Stephen Graham is only in a handful of scenes but boy does he steal every one of them.
Prepare yourself. Rocketman is unlike any musical bio pic you've seen. It takes big, bold, brilliant risks which they pretty much always pull off.