Rocketman is glitter and glamour, and all of the spoils one expects from an Elton John biopic. It’s also the drugs and depression, and all of the ugliness that comes with the price of fame.
Where last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody glossed over Freddie Mercury’s life to present a fairytale version of his story, Rocketman showcases a distorted fantasy in order to explore the reality of the world’s most flamboyant showman, Elton John. It’s an upbeat and joyous event, worthy of its subject, offering a warts-n-all perspective.
We are introduced to Elton (played by Taron Egerton) at the height of his career as he joins an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Confessing to a multitude of addictions, he recalls where it all began as six-year-old Reginald Dwight, whose first time playing a piano marked the birth of a prodigy. His story is woven into a tapestry of pivotal moments, through his troubled adolescent years and all the way to his rise to stardom.
With Bohemian Rhapsody fresh in people’s minds, comparisons are inevitable, and Rocketman comes with an added level of anticipation.
Musical films are hot right now; along with A Star is Born, we find ourselves in a rock-fuelled revival. Rocketman is likely to surprise with its unorthodox musical narrative adhering more to the stylings of cult films like the Beatles-infused Across the Universe and the Bowie-inspired Velvet Goldmine. Characters break into song and burst into big flashy musical numbers midway through conversations. Reality gives way to fantasy as the darker themes are explored metaphorically. And where other self-produced biopics might glaze over the trauma, Elton’s film makes no apologies for its brutally honest depiction.
Director Dexter Fletcher has reunited with his Eddie the Eagle star to bring Elton’s story to life, and having come hot off the heels of co-directing Bohemian Rhapsody, his filmmaking tools are finely tuned. And Egerton’s performance is phenomenal (giving Rami Malek’s Oscar win a run for its money). He not only embodies the essence of his real-life counterpart, but also adds his own unique voice to the beloved songstar. It’s an uncanny portrayal, celebrating the frivolity of the singer’s career as well as the personal trauma that underlined his persona.
Jamie Bell offers excellent counterbalance as Elton’s long-serving lyricist and best friend, Bernie Taupin, whom many will know by name but whose relative anonymity allows Bell to really flex his dramatic muscle. And the rest of the supporting cast is impressive, with Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s heartless mother, Stephen Mackintosh as his cruel father, Gemma Jones as his famously doting grandmother, and Richard Madden as his manipulative manager. The ensemble also features such notable names as Tate Donovan, Stephen Graham and Charlie Rowe.
You can expect to see Rocketman represented at next year’s Academy Awards, if only for its incredible costume design, dazzling cinematography and production design. Of course we can throw in nods for best actor, best director, best screenplay and – obviously – best film. If Bohemian Rhapsody set the benchmark, then Rocketman can be expected to step right over it in one big glittered-stiletto stride. It’s a musical odyssey and a highly energised extravaganza. See it the right way in all of its big screen glory… what a legend!
In cinemas: May 30, 2019
Starring: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden
Directed by: Dexter Fletcher