Rocketman – Review

Fresh from rescuing the Freddie Mercury and Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody after the removal of its director Bryan Singer. Dexter Fletcher brings us the glowing, fabulous and utterly compelling Rocketman. Bringing to life the career of Elton John with stunning cinematography, performances and energy, in a fantasia of music, creativity and emotion.

From its opening scenes Rocketman isn’t afraid to directly address the drugs, alcohol and sex that led Elton to rehab. And while some timelines are played with in a fast and loose fashion, it wears it heart on its sleeve from the first scene to the last.

There are moments in a rock star’s life that define who he is. Where there is darkness, there is now you, and it’s going to be a wild ride

John Reid (Richard Madden)

This is Elton John at his most flamboyant, vulnerable and honest, with his stunning back catalogue of music woven into key moments of joy, despair and change.

Taking us from the young Reggie Dwight, born into a middle class dysfunctional family in Middlesex. Rocketman launches the audience into a glittering world of self discovery, family conflict and sexuality. Using its stunning cinematography (George Richmond) to convey the highs, lows and energy of a life lived in the glare of public attention. Musical numbers are creatively dovetailed into the key narrative of each scene, with an almost west end theatre result, while also maintaining the fantasia of the overarching film.

Unlike 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, this is a film that has every intention of creatively playing with the life story of its subject. Providing a unique vision of a man who survived the darker side of fame, while finding himself in the process.

Performances are truly stunning with Taron Egerton giving an electrifying and nuanced portrait of Elton John. Egerton playing with the interface between the personal and public persona of Elton impeccably while embracing the music and showmanship of both the public and private man. This is a performance that not only plays homage to Elton John, but also highlights the skill and presence of Egerton as a leading light in modern British cinema. Coupled with an ensemble cast who add gravitas and emotion, Rocketman allows the amazing talent on screen to deliver their roles with honesty, humour and creativity. Never falling into the trap of mimicry, inherent in so many music biopics.

Sexuality and love are front and centre, with the film never attempting to straight wash the life of Elton John. While also exploring the challenges of gay life in a 70’s and 80’s music industry built public denial of gay sex and private freedom of sexual choice. Often resulting in even more polarised public and private personas for its stars. The relationship between Elton John (Egerton) and John Reid (Madden) is full of the explosive effects power, money and control had in so many of the secretive gay relationships of 70’s and 80’s public life.

Equally Rocketman never seeks to dismiss the importance of Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) in the career of the public facing Elton John. His lyrics and partnership a cornerstone of Elton’s success, while also providing a private support that helped Elton reclaim his life from dependancy and addiction in the 1990’s.

Rocketman is a rollercoaster of music, stunning visuals and electric performances that goes beyond the usual rock biopic, providing a truly creative portrait of a British music legend.

Comments

  1. Janet Baker

    This is a very good informative review, I really enjoyed reading it, and it would certainly make me want to go and see ‘Rocket Man’

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