I entered the screening of Rocketman ignorant to Elton John’s life and work, and a little sceptical of the film’s accuracy (as I am with most biopics). Without the burden of knowledge of his past, I was free to enjoy the film unencumbered. From the trippy fantasy sequences to the emotional turmoil, it was a rollercoaster set to a score of Elton’s greatest hits.
The entire score being music from a single artist is very restrictive when it comes to matching songs with scenes. For the most part, the relationships were clear and rational; however, occasional numbers felt shoehorned with little relation to plot. Other songs complemented scenes, with special effects and choreography that were creative and fun, flowing seamlessly through the years of his rise and fall.
The transitions between scenes during the drug fuelled years reflect the loss of time Elton may have experienced. Passing out in one place and waking in another maybe days later. This was a part of Elton’s life that I was unaware of, often being sad to witness and difficult to watch. Unfortunately, it seems to be a recurring theme in the lives of artists. Manipulated by a smooth-talking corporate demon and led in to a spiral of sex, drugs and alcohol.
Taron Edgerton puts in a great performance, as do the supporting cast, portraying dizzying highs, devastating lows, and heart-breaking neglect. His cruel mother (Bryce Dallas-Howard), disgusted father (Steven Mackintosh) and ruthless manager (Richard Madden) all dismiss him. But lyricist Bernie Taupin, played by the brilliant Jamie Bell, remained forever loyal and loving.
A special shoutout to Stephen Graham, whose hilarious performance as ex-manager Dick James almost steals the show.
Although comparisons have drawn between Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, I find them to be very different films, as if one being a musical and the other a film with music. With Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher (who completed filming of Bohemian Rhapsody) has created a gritty representation of Elton’s life as opposed to a nostalgic celebration. It leaves you feeling drained rather than elated. It may not be an epic, but it is as colourful as the subject which is all we could have asked for.