“Rocketman” (M) ****
I DIDN’T review “Bohemian Rhapsody” because I felt I mightn’t do justice to its musical environment (my radio station of choice is ABC Classic FM). When “Rocketman” came along, I set aside similar misgivings because what little I know about Elton John’s musical oeuvre made me curious.
I’m glad I made that decision. “Rocketman” delighted me for any number of reasons.
Director Dexter Fletcher, who was instrumental in (but uncredited for) completing “Bohemian Rhapsody” after credited director Bryan Singer was fired, certainly knows what makes a memorable movie about the rise of a rock star. Writer Lee Hall has a brief but impressive CV. And while “Rocketman” doesn’t labour the point, there can be no doubt that Elton John himself had a close connection with its making.
These, unseen, are three of the movie’s main pillars. The fourth is actor Taron Egerton playing the adult Reginald Dwight, a.k.a Sir Elton John, CBE. It’s a helluva delivery of the public and private lives of someone from a difficult early family background in an affluent town in north-east London.
The film moves relatively rapidly through Elton’s childhood, with a strict and difficult father (Steven Mackintosh) who left his mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) and doting grandmother (Gemma Jones) to raise the boy (Matthew IIlesley as a six-year-old) who needed only to hear a piece of music to play it on the piano into the adolescent (Kit Connor) who at 11 got a scholarship to the Royal College of Music.
Early adulthood introduces Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin, Elton’s closest friend who wrote the words that Elton would set to music. Early years in performance give way to the success from which the rest of his public life developed. What’s most difficult is not so much his coming out sexually as the relationship with manager John Reid (Richard Madden) who was his lover. His problems with drugs and alcohol get an uncompromising going over.
These elements come to the screen with impressive candour served alongside musical and dance sequences full of vigour and style. The total package is impressive cinema art, not just entertainment.
At all cinemas