• Gareth Crook

Rocketman (2019)

I seem to have slipped into a weird habit of watching musicals. Why I’ve no idea. I’m also not sure why I’ve opted to watch Rocketman, when it was released I decided to give it a wide berth. I like Taron Egerton though, not in everything, but he was great as Eddie the Eagle and I’ve heard he does Elton well. I quite like Elton John too, again not everything. Rocket Man might be a fave, Saturday Night’s Alright, I’m Still Standing. There’s an awful lot of crap too. I know this will upset some, but I hate Candle in the Wind, Your Song and you know what this could be a very long list so I’ll stop. I suspect that as far as authenticity goes, we might be on similar lines to Bohemian Rhapsody, playing fast a loose with the facts. It has all the hallmarks of a fantasy. Young Reg is a dreamer, undoubtedly talented. His father painted as the typical useless parent, does little to encourage these talents, but his mother and grandmother more than make up for it. Despite the lad playing young Elton (Kit Connor) being very good, I’m struggling as this starts. It’s just all a bit obvious, that is until we get Saturday Night’s Alright when it instantly kicks up several gears, with a dizzying sequence that introduces Egerton. This proves one thing very clearly, this film’s strength and success rest firmly on Elton’s back catalogue. I suppose that’s not much of a surprise. What does tickle me a little, is how some of the earlier scenes set in the childhood home, remind me of Billy Elliot, suppressed talent etc. So when Jamie Bell turns up as Bernie Taupin it seems quite prophetic and the scene introducing the two is quite sweet, bonding over country and western songs in a greasy spoon. It’s all a bit cartoony, exemplified by Stephen Graham as the east end two bit record producer, not to mention Elton himself, especially in the rehab sessions that pepper the film, him dressed in his most flamboyant 70s gear as he sign posts his life. When it hits the spot though, the cartoony stuff is electrifying and makes perfect sense. As Elton and Bernie hit Hollywood and blow The Troubadour away with Crocodile Rock, it’s a wonderful high point. Elton’s sexuality though isolates him. It’s raw and honest in its way and seems to be a large factor into the alcohol, drug addiction and debauchery, that not even a pair of boots sold by Keith Lemon can fix. That and the fact that new manager, love interest and bloodsucker John Reid is a piece of shit. For all the highs, which are pretty high, the lows are equally deep. It all comes down to love and the lack of. It’s very sad, the sad clown or sad technicolour rooster. Egerton plays both sides exceptionally well. Pinball Wizard and Rocketman are both used in wonderfully over the top sequences. I’m guessing these are the parts that people will remember. It’s a shame though that a little more isn’t made of Elton and Taupin’s relationship, that seems to be the anchor, but as things progress, the film relies more and more on the songs. They come thick and fast, soundtracking his slip into a decadence that’s beyond his control. The story itself seems to take a back burner, content for a pop video. It helps that his music is so cinematic. The pieces all fit though and for all the high gloss production sheen that depicts the circus of Elton’s life, it’s... not bad. It doesn’t pull too many punches and it is what it is, a piece of entertainment. Now through watching this, I’ll have to admit, there are more songs I like than I thought. It’s all about context and here they really work. I still hate Candle in the Wind though, but thankfully this cuts off in the 80s so we’re spared and for that I’m very thankful.


6/10



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