Posted May 23 2019

Rocketman - This Rocking Movie Doesn't Really Rock

Dir: Dexter Fletcher

Starring Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Dallas Bryce Howard, Stephen Graham

Rocketman is a very different beast from Bohemian Rhapsody. Although they shouldn’t be compared, following so closely on its prodigious Oscar winning, box office smashing tails – and sharing (in part) a director, comparisons are inevitable, if somewhat inappropriate. Rather than a biopic with musical performances, this tale of Elton John’s rise and fall is a full blown musical, with his songs performed by all the cast with them, more often than not, launching to an elaborate song and dance number at – if not the drop of a hat – than the removal of one of his many pairs of exotic glasses.

It’s an effective movie – if taken as a fantastical take on an extraordinary life, (and songbook), and produces some fine moments. But, as shepherded by John himself, with a deliberate attempt not to soft-soap and go warts and all, it has one fundamental problem. And that is Elton John. With all the best will in the world – and dancing as fast as he can throughout – Taron Egerton cannot disguise the fact that during his meteoric rise to fame and descent into drink, drugs and debauchery (all the “d”s), that Elton was something of a prick. And to be fair, this is how John himself wanted to be represented.

But it unbalances the film, even as it heads to some kind of redemption. Elton is, very simply, unlikable. And the film never gets to portray him as anything else. There is no empathy here. Whilst Bo Rap (again not a fair comparison, but inevitable) was cheesy as all hell, it still delivered characters you rooted for, and – by the time you got to Live Aid – exalted with.

This by comparison, has a few interesting arrangements of some decent tunes and a couple of well-staged stand out fantasy interpretations of same. Throughout it though, Elton remains a bit of an arrogant fool, the poor little boy who achieved everything, but found himself unloved. And subsequently just became something of a bore. As the film progresses you can’t help yourself feeling it’s no wonder everyone turned away from him. (By the time you get to his bogus and short-lived marriage to Renata, you can't help but feel that this is included only so real-life Elton can make a very public apology - in his own movie.)

Elton’s message himself is probably one of how eventual sobriety saved him, brought him a husband and two wonderful children to love. But when you arrive at these moments of such catharsis (all delivered in a photo montage over the end credits) you don’t really care anymore.

It’s odd coming from Fletcher, who delivered a wonderful warm, heart-felt and human musical – despite its similarly stylised nature – when he made his Proclaimers filml, Sunshine On Leith. By comparison, this is an unexpectedly cold and distant movie. Which you wish it wasn’t


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