Rocketman (dir. Dexter Fletcher, 2019) – Revered musical legend Elton John re-lives his breakout years in a fantastical musical.
Topped with inviting shades of fantasy, Rocketman leads us on an outrageously gratifying wild ride from start to finish.
Estranged families, addictions, and struggles with sexuality. Present are all the usual suspects of rock star adventures in Rocketman. But based on a true fantasy, this is clearly no biopic from the mould. Director Dexter Fletcher chooses his own perfect way to retell Elton John’s highs and lows.
Showered in flamboyance and operatic excess, the film proves befitting for the Pinball Wizard known and beloved for his larger-than-life personality. Big musical numbers never feel too out of town, bringing tinges of hope to the darkest moments.
Granted the soundtrack never ventures far beyond chart hits, they are no mere throwaway inserts or background music. The song choices show understanding towards the stories that Bernie Taupin masks in his poetry, such that every lyric is sung with intent and meaning.
As theatrical as it can get, the narrative is grounded in its emotions. Anger, sadness, and loneliness surge in powerful iterations of Your Song, Rocketman, and Yellow Brick Road. Some scenes are absolutely devastating, particularly in Elton’s coming out to his mother Sheila Eileen (Bryce Dallas Howard).
These rocky relationships make for predictable albeit inviting drama. Drugs fuel a regrettable breakaway from Ray Williams (Charlie Rowe), who believed in him from the very start. Then, there is the usual deceitful lover that comes in the territory of fame. Richard Madden as John Reid spews toxicity with such conviction, the Scottish vortex of charm was temporarily misplaced.
But the most gripping scenes belong to mutual affection between Elton John (Taron Egerton) and Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). It is to the credit of the leads for bringing out their exquisite flair as musicians, as much as they did the genuine sincerity of their unimaginably beautiful friendship.
In that, Rocketman is most commendable in choosing to celebrate their platonic affection above all. It is a love that Hollywood never celebrates enough. Certainly, the claim of ‘no arguments’ in five decades is hard to believe. But there is no doubt that their friendship brims with chemistry, and it is one that can only be longed for by most.