Take a funky step along the Yellow Brick Road with this musical biopic, revolving around the rise of iconic singer-songwriter Elton John. The songs are guaranteed hits but how wonderful is ‘Rocketman’, now it’s in the world?
From an early age Reginald Dwight (Taron Egerton) has had the gift of musicality ingrained into him, and after appearing as piano playing back up for other groups, he gets the opportunity to stand out on his own. After renaming himself Elton John, he teams up with Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and rockets to super-stardom but it comes with the heavy price of neglected self-care and missing genuine love.
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words, that I am not going to compare this film with last years ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, it’d be easy to do so but this movie I shall review on its own merit. Dexter Fletcher who did indeed help shoot and wrap up the Queen feature, is on solo duty for this and he confidently showcases a knack for capturing both the complicated nature of getting a musical right without being tacky and tackling the demons and delights of John’s career.
It’s equal parts intriguing and fatiguing seeing the fantasy element swirled into the vibrant life of a musical. It works rather well more often than not though it never blows you away or packs a punch to make you feel anything major. What the heightened visual flairs do bring are moments of trippy flamboyance to match the man himself and it does a nice job of pulling the audience into a kaleidoscopic world of madness, colour, tunes and drama.
‘Rocketman’ smashes the ivories of style but ensures the pedals of substance are well pushed down in places too. Most of the content, which prevents the stylish brush strokes seeping into overload, are thanks to Reggie’s family background and the love-shaped hole he craves to fill. The assistance of Elton John’s electric back catalogue soak up Lee Hall’s screenplay with head-bopping wonder but don’t let that fool you from thinking it completely drowns out the character building of John as a man of camp and charisma, heart and hurt.
Time does shuffle forward in jumps like a semi-broken jukebox skipping a breath to take in a rushed marriage and some of the musical tracks do feel forced in slightly and it’d go without saying that the song orders are probably chronologically incorrect but aside from these teeny points, and the cliched bio-genre tropes of newspaper headline montages or superimposed characters speaking over the central image of the main figure, you can Crocodile Rock with enough satisfaction to a groovy, honky tonk tale of soul about a struggling artist.
Taron Egerton is the ideal actor to take on the role and fancy glasses of Elton. The performer dons the persona of showmanship, grit, vulnerability and empathy to ensure that even if John is a difficult diva and drives people away you still are drawn to the man and boy oh boy can you feel the love tonight listening to Egerton sing; hearing his takes on classic songs are almost like for like.
Perhaps the starry style of ‘Rocketman’ can test the patience and it doesn’t step too far away from the conventions of musicals and biographical films, but more often than not this is a sparkling and impressive look behind the curtain of an artist with stratospheric talent.
Written by Troy Balmayer
Rating – 7.5/10
Question: What’s your favourite film musical from this decade?
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