REVIEW: Rocketman is a well executed fantasy musical, but perhaps you need to be an Elton John fan
PUBLISHED: 16:07 26 June 2019
Taron Egerton stars as Elton John in a musical biopic of Elton John, charting his rise to fame and battles with alcohol and drugs.
Taron Egerton stars as Elton John in this musical biopic of the flamboyant singer-songwriter which charts his rise to fame and later battles with alcohol and drugs.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher, who completed the recent Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody after the firing of director Bryan Singer, Rocketman also features Jamie Bell as Elton's longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin and Richard Madden as his stoic manager John Reid.
The film begins with the weary popstar arriving for an AA meeting in a spectacular devil suit, having walked straight from a show.
Taking centre stage as usual, the singer begins to regale his fellow addicts with the story of his humble beginnings.
It's an inventive way to bookend the film as it allows Fletcher to tell the story through the hazy unreliable eyes of an alcoholic rather than employ the linear box ticking style usually employed in films of this type.
Steven Mackintosh and Bryce Dallas Howard take on the roles of parents Stan and Sheila and it is their prickly relationship with their son which forms an important underlying thread to motivate the young musician.
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The script from Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall also incorporates some elaborate song and dance numbers, which as enjoyable as they are in their own right, only serve to pull the viewer out of the drama.
The other problem the film has is that during his heyday, Elton was not a tremendously likeable person, something he admits later on during therapy.
As the tantrums and drug-fuelled hissy fits pile up, the film becomes more difficult to enjoy.
Egerton's performance is nonetheless outstanding, he manages to portray both a supreme on stage confidence as well as a fragile self doubt behind the scenes.
The film is at its best when it focuses on the relationship between Elton and his one true friend Taupin. Jamie Bell is the film's unsung hero, providing a wonderfully understated foil to Egerton's flamboyant showman.
Due to the similarities, it is impossible to avoid comparisons with Bohemian Rhapsody. Rocketman is an undeniably braver film, that refuses to shy away from Elton's sexuality and substance abuse in the way the Queen biopic did, however it is also a much less enjoyable affair.
Rocketman is an ambitious and well executed fantasy musical, but non fans will likely find it difficult to invest in.