Rocketman Movie Review: Always on Song
The musically inclined narrative is a spectacular launchpad that propels the universally loved Elton John's biopic - highlighting the maestro's career highs, hit songs and personal lows.
U/A: Biography, Drama, Music
Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Howard, Gemma Jones
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Director Dexter Fletcher, who took over from Bryan Singer, as director for the Oscar award winning Bohemian Rhapsody, gets Taron Egerton to retrace Elton John aka Reginald Dwight's early rise to stardom with able help from an intriguing script by Lee Hall( Billy Elliott and the stage musical of that film, in collaboration with Elton John). The musically inclined narrative is a spectacular launchpad that propels the universally loved and admired entertainer's biopic - highlighting the maestro's career highs, hit songs and personal lows.
Elton John was a shy piano prodigy who rose to international stardom in the 1970's, right after changing his name. The narrative here, draws us into the unconventional life of the superstar performer, lending us an inside view of his meteoric rise to superstardom and his simultaneous descent into an abyss of loneliness and addiction. It sizzles with spectacular surreally stylized musical sequences interspersed with real-life drama - but connect is not always empathetic or heartfelt.
This is a biopic of a music legend who is still alive and continues to perform spectacularly - so the challenge is certainly big enough to intimidate a lesser director. Fletcher, though, manages to make this experience a serenade of sparkle, splendour and perseverance, befitting the lifestyle, connections and intersections of the extraordinarily talented musician, singer and performer whose bohemian irreverence appears almost rhapsodic.
Hall's framing device involves a slow instrumental version of the title song, while Elton decked out in a typically outlandish costume bursts through a doorway haloed in light. The next moment we see him taking his seat (in that abovementioned getup) among a therapy group at a posh rehab facility. It's obviously a group therapy session where he proceeds to list his many addictions - drugs, alcohol, sex, shopaholism, and issues with bulimia and anger management. Some of the plot points here are cursorily touched upon- especially that of his brief marriage to Renate Blauel(Celinde Schoenmaker) but the songs and the performances make it quite a glory run. Musically, it's largely the greatest hits serenade with 'Border Song, Take Me to the Pilot, Don't let the sun go down on me, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Your Song, the Bitch is Back' and many more truncated versions with Egerton confidently belting out in Elton John style while giving us an intimate glimpse into the pain and exaltation of musical superstardom. Jamie Bell as John's long-term song-writing partner Bernie Taupin is the first rate.
Watch the trailer of Rocketman
Bryce Dallas Howard as Reggie's standoffish self-absorbed mother Sheila, Steven Mackintosh as his neglectful father, Gemma Jones as Nan, Richard Madden as John Reid, a self-serving music manager who takes over Elton's career management from Dick James (Stephen Graham) and Ray Williams (Charlie Rowe) – all lend effective support. The narrative might not have the traditional bloom of a perfectly balanced emotionally effective drama but Elton's lyrics and the style of presentation lend authenticity to a life that veers off course before it can make a course correction. This is a musical that gives life to the style and talents of the superstar in his younger days and it's as unconventional as its subject- a brilliantly bold representation of a colourful and decadent life that's always on song!
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