A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John‘s breakthrough years.
After the first 5 minutes of ‘Rocketman’ I was not expecting to come away from the film with a positive experience, but by the end I’d fallen in love with it. The film is about Elton John’s life and his music but it’s by no means a traditional biopic, and a better description may be to describe it as a celebration of his music and his achievements. It is part musical, part fantasy and it is alternately audacious and cringeworthy, but the ambition of it and the quality of the performances and the music make ‘Rocketman’ a really entertaining journey through his life and career.
Now that first 5 minutes has some hard work to do to not only introduce us to the story, but to the style that ‘Rocketman’ intends to follow throughout and I thought it was incredibly shaky as director Dexter Fletcher attempts to simultaneously introduce the framing device in the AA meeting, the musical fantasy numbers and some of the core characters. Even Taron Egerton, who is absolutely superb as Elton John, looks flustered at this point. Thankfully it doesn’t take long to get past this point and improve and the film, and Egerton, become more and more confident as time goes on and once we move past John’s childhood and into the beginnings of his career it starts to soar. Fletcher is no stranger to this kind of material, having salvaged ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ from the Bryan Singer situation, and he was also the man behind the Proclaimers musical film ‘Sunshine on Leith’ which I really enjoyed and which with hindsight feels like a warm up for some of the showier numbers on display here.
The music is of course fantastic and Taron Egerton, as well as delivering a fine performance, sings all of the songs himself and it doesn’t feel out of place. There are some terrific supporting roles for Jamie Bell as John’s long time writing partner Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as his former manager and lover John Reid and scenery chewing cameos from Stephen Graham and Tate Donovan, who all help to make the tone and style work. Jamie Bell’s performance is one of his strongest in a long time and the friendship between Taupin and John is ‘Rocketman’s’ subtle strength underneath the bombastic stylings, much like it was for the two men in real life.
‘Rocketman’ is as flamboyant and colourful as the life of the man whose life and career it attempts to cover, and the casting is spot on throughout the ensemble. I felt it grew into a really entertaining and enjoyable movie after a stuttering start, and my only regret is that I went to see it when I was tired after a heavy night out!
Directed By: Dexter Fletcher
Starring: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Stephen Graham, Jason Pennycooke, Charlie Rowe, Gemma Jones and Tate Donovan