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Rocketman Review

May 31, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Taron Egerton Rocketman Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman from Paramount Pictures.
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Rocketman Review  

Directed By: Dexter Fletcher
Written By: Lee Hall
Runtime: 121 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout, some drug use and sexual content

Taron Egerton – Elton John
Jamie Bell – Bernie Taupin
Bryce Dallas Howard – Sheila
Richard Madden – John Reid
Tate Donovan – Doug Weston
Steven Mackintosh – Stanley
Charlie Rowe – Ray Williams

Director Dexter Fletcher re-teams with his Eddie the Eagle star for this musical biopic on the life and times of pop star Elton John. Aptly titled Rocketman, this lively film provides an unflinching look at the youth of Elton John (nee Reginald Kenneth Dwight), his meteoric rise to superstardom in the 70s, his battles with addiction, adversarial relationships, and his tenuous relationship with his parents.

The film begins with Elton John checking into a rehab facility and sharing his life story, starting with his youth living with a rather narcissistic mother, Sheila (Howard), and a cold and distant father (Mackintosh). Young Reggie has an affinity for music, and his teachers at least recognize his talent as a musical prodigy. He soon gets a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music and starts a career working as a musician.

Eventually, Reggie changes his name to Elton John and fully dedicates his life to the music business. He forms a bond and friendship with the talented poet and songwriter, Bernie Taupin. Bernie accepts Elton’s homosexuality, and the two become brothers by choice, forming a legendary music relationship. Their partnership would eventually give birth to some of the most classic and historic songs in rock ‘n’ roll history.

With Elton John’s gift for music and Bernie’s lyrics, the two take their act to the US. Elton John becomes a literal overnight success and soon one of the biggest stars in the world. Things get worse for John when he signs with John Reid (Madden) to manage his business affairs. Reid also becomes Elton’s lover, but he’s manipulative and abusive, causing Elton to fall into self-loathing and self-destructive habits, including bulimia, drugs, and alcohol. Everyone knows how the story turns out for Elton John in real life, so Rocketman is the story of how Elton John tries to regain control of his life from the bad influences around him.

Rocketman is anchored by an outstanding performance by Egerton, who completely dives headfirst into the role of Elton John. Egerton looks fearless here, taking on the singing and dance numbers with gusto, giving his absolute all in bringing the story of Elton John to life. Egerton’s voice may not be as memorable or strong as John’s, but he completely surrenders to the musical numbers, and you can hear his voice when he’s singing. He hits the big notes and brings amazing emotion to the numbers. It’s a stark contrast to hearing the auto-tuned butchering of the classic songs in Disney’s recent live-action remake of Aladdin. Egerton’s performance elevates this film to greater heights.

In Eddie the Eagle, Dexter Fletcher had a gift for creating an unapologetic, non-cynical 1980s underdog sports movie. He showed a penchant for needle-dropping pop songs throughout that film. Similarly, Rocketman is punctuated by musical numbers, using classic songs from throughout Elton John’s life and career. All the musical sequences are visually striking and placed properly throughout the narrative, coming up at just the right moments. Fletcher’s confidence and personal style as a director are growing.

The main issue with the script is that it tends to gloss over certain parts of John’s life. The film does have a fairly brisk running time of 121 minutes. However, once John gets his first performance in the US, his success and rags-to-riches story appear to happen overnight. The latter half of Elton John’s story could have slowed down a little bit rather than speed up in the biopic.

Overall, Fletcher does a great job of not sugarcoating Elton John’s story, showing both the good and the bad. He’s not afraid to show the character flaws that Elton John had to overcome. Elton John had to battle his share of personal demons to arrive at that point where he checked into rehab. Ultimately, this is a strong triumphant story, and Fletcher handles those moments well, especially with the film’s depiction of John’s 1983 song, “I’m Still Standing,” which is utilized perfectly here.

Rocketman is an emotional journey through the life of Elton John, anchored by Egerton’s singularly exceptional performance in the lead role.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Rocketman is a strong, triumphant look at the life and times of singer Elton John. Taron Egerton gives an astounding, emotional, and electric performance as the legendary pop star. Director Dexter Fletcher does a strong and respectful job at providing an unflinching look at the life of Elton John, both the good and the bad, showing the challenges Elton John overcame to become one of the biggest music stars in the world.