by British Awakening – 13 Jun 2019
I have always had a curious interaction with the life and work of Elton John. Whenever I hear one of his songs played I seldom switch it off finding his music quite pleasing to the ear – but it never really got the hook in me in the same way other similar artists achieved. Like Elton I spent my younger years in Hertfordshire and for me he was more famous for what he did for football taking over as Chairman at Watford and in successive years taking them (with the help of Graham Taylor) from the Fourth Division to the First in quick succession.
Nonetheless where music is concerned I would wholeheartedly agree with anyone who argued Elton is a musical genius with an outstanding voice, I would even say Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is one of the finest songs ever performed, yet there is still a gap that says Elton in my record collection.
Rocketman is a biopic that traces some of Elton John’s earlier years from his troubled childhood through to his battle with drugs and alcohol at the peak of his career. Taron Egerton (Kingsman, Eddie the Eagle) gives a good performance as the adult Elton John and has a voice to do justice to his songs which come thick and fast straight from the outset.
Elton John has never been someone to shy away from the public and the film does serve as a form of confessional, whilst not exactly a warts and all type film – it does try to stay the right side of entertaining its audience – some of the less pleasant aspects of his career are not brushed under the carpet. A rather telling scene shows Elton pouring himself a pint of vodka and orange at the breakfast table as he sits across from his sober wife, a person who Elton makes clear both within the film and in real life he did wrong to.
Elton’s sexuality is tactfully dealt with; in the 1970s when his career took off being open about homosexuality was not an easy thing to do. The film addresses some of the excesses of the gay scene Elton was introduced to by his manager John Reid (Richard Madden) but you are left with the impression that all Elton ever wanted was to be loved by someone. The film tracks the familiar arc of a fairly decent person becoming corrupted by people in the business only to eventually find his true self at his lowest ebb.
Rocketman nicely showcases the highly successful collaboration between Elton and the lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), there is little doubt at least from the movies perspective that Elton is the star but it tips its hat the contribution of Bernie. Their complex relationship is a theme throughout the film.
All of the performances are competent and help drive the story to a nice conclusion, in a way it is a good thing that no one actor steals the show – the music itself should be the star. At the end you just want to applaud Elton, for all his tantrums and weaknesses there is something very sweet about the man. For all his disasters he blames none but himself but shares so many of his triumphs with others, this for me is what made the film so enjoyable. Go see it.
Rating: R (for language throughout, some drug use and sexual content)
Directed By: Dexter Fletcher
Written By: Lee Hall
Runtime: 121 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures
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