- 29 May 19
The new Elton John Biopic has proved to be a crowd-pleaser.
The title of Dexter Fletcher’s impressionistic extravaganza about Elton John’s rise to fame couldn’t be more apt, and the opening scene of Rocketman sets up its redemptive arc clearly. John (Targon Egerton) explodes through a doorway adorned in tangerine sequined bell-bottoms, giant feathered wings, bedazzled horns and heart-shaped glasses – but he’s not going on stage. He’s just entered an AA meeting, where he admits to being addicted to cocaine, alcohol, shopping and sex, as well as suffering from bulimia and anger management problems.
It’s interesting that the one part of this opening section Rocketman never again alludes to is John’s bulimia – the one struggle that doesn’t neatly fit into the familiar narrative of fame, addiction and ego. The movie’s approach to John’s sexuality also remains quite tame – being slightly more explicit than Bohemian Rhapsody does not a progressive film make.
But while the narrative arc is traditional, Fletcher’s stylised presentation is hugely enjoyable. Operating like a musical, the heavy-handed dialogue moves us through John’s emotionally neglected childhood, his early songwriting days with Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and supernova stardom. Fletcher’s flashy, kinetic presentation of John’s songs provides emotion and energy.
A kaleidoscopic flashmob during ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ captures John’s frenetic transitional years. The film’s highlight - John’s breakout performance of ‘Crocodile Rock’ in the Troubadour in Los Angeles – sees him and the audience literally floating; a delightful evocation of a star in ascendancy.
Egerton gives a fully committed performance (and sings every note – take that, Rami Malek), capturing John’s insecurity, showmanship, and the toddler-like tantrums of a person simultaneously over-indulged but little understood.
Rocketman sticks to the hits, avoiding any unexpected B-sides in soundtrack or story, but as a jukebox musical, it’s a fun effort.