Everyone knows at least one Elton John Song, deep down somewhere in their mind, everyone knows at least some of those famous lyrics. Following on from the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman comes flying onto the screen with a whirlwind of colour, passion, heartache and music. Telling the true fantasy life of Elton John, or Reg Dwight whichever way you choose to look at it, Rocketman is a musical biopic on a completely different level to Bohemian Rhapsody.
I knew some of the story of Elton John, but not to the extent in which this film tells it all. From the very beginning when it was discovered that he had a talent for the piano to the point in which he makes his return to music after his struggles with alcohol and drugs. I don’t really know what I was expecting of Rocketman, but it certainly wasn’t what it turned out to be. I guess that I was expecting it to be more like Bohemian Rhapsody, where the music comes from performances, recording studio scenes and concerts, one after another. But it wasn’t all like that. What I am trying to say is that Rocketman is more, well… Musical.
One of the many delightful things about Musicals is when characters burst into song in a moment when it would have been just as easy for them to speak. Walking down the street with a song, dance numbers coming out of nowhere and amazingly everyone seems to know the moves. You see it in stage musicals all of the time and I fully believe that Rocketman could easily make the jump to the stage.
Rocketman brings that musical feel to the big screen in a wonderful mixture of fantasy and reality, performances turn into dream sequences and vice versa. It highlights how a young Reg Dwight saw music as an escape from his own reality, he could use it to create his own fantasies. And has he grew and turned those dreams into reality, the fantasy, the madness, and absurdities never left him, in turn driving him to drink and abuse drugs. The story is told by a middle aged Elton, as he tells a therapist about his life, we first see him as the showman before we are told of how he got there.
Throughout the film, we see a collection of Elton John’s music performed both on and off stages around the world. The music is the window into his mind, his thoughts and opinions hidden in the words. Taron Egerton transforms into the musical legend, putting in an incredible performance as he dips and dives through the seemingly unbeatable showman to the real man struggling to cope with the costs of fame. The darker his reality becomes, the wilder the fantasies are. He hides behind the mask of Elton, but really he is that music loving young man Reg. You can not fault Egerton’s performance, emotional, passionate and energetic also lending his amazing vocals to the role. He truly becomes the character all whilst making it his own.
Rocketman takes us through Elton’s life, pinpointing important moments such as his unhappy childhood, his relationship with his parents through to his adult relationships with Bernie and John. Bernie is brilliantly played by Jamie Bell. A complicated character in his own right, but he was truly to calm to Elton’s madness. He loves the idea of fame but not the fact that he cannot control it yet through thick and thin Bernie was there for Elton. We have to also mention Bodyguard star Richard Madden who played John. At first we see a man who loved Elton, well maybe he always did, but then we see a sleazy manipulative man who used Elton’s weaknesses to his advantage.
As a theatre superfan, you can easily play a game of spot the stage star with this one, although the same could be said for Aladdin and Mamma Mia Here We Go Again. I spotted Sharon D Clarke as the counselor, Celinde Schoenmaker as Renate, Jason Pennycooke as Wilson as well as seeing dancer Sam Stanley.
The musical numbers are both a treat for the ears and the eyes, blurs of colour and passion all bringing it all to life in the most incredible fashion. We are transported through pub brawls and fairground rides in ‘Saturday nights alright for fighting’ whilst ‘Rocketman’ takes us from the darkness drug and alcohol abuse to levels of so much passion, we see Elton himself become a firework. We are whirled around the world with tour after tour in ‘Pinball Wizard’. These songs take us from the simple to the sublime, from Elton and Bernie with just a piano in ‘Your Song’ to the heights of realising stardom in ‘Crocodile Rock’.
This is a film that not only tells Elton John’s story but shows the truth in that rock and roll lifestyle, the cost of fame, what you gain against what you lose and finding the balance between reality and fantasy. With it’s powerful story and wonderful music, this is a film that is practically screaming out to made into a fully fledged stage musical.