Film Review: Elton biopic is a five-star rocket

Rocketman, out now nationwide, cert 15, *****
Film Review: Elton biopic is a five-star rocket

REGINALD Kenneth Dwight was a tubby child with an uncaring father and disinterested mother.

From difficult beginnings, he found an out and grabbed it with both hands. He transformed his look and his name and followed his dream. He became the legendary Elton John.

He has sold a staggering 300 million albums, had more than 50 Top 40 hits, and amassed a wealth and fame street buskers dream about one day having.

To top it all off he is a cultural icon, a hero to the LGBTQ community, and diehard supporter of AIDS and HIV charities. All of this was hard won and Rocketman tells us how he got there.

It opens with a flamboyant burst. Taron Edgerton plays Elton and we first see him decked out in jewels and feathers, marching down a corridor, which we assume will lead to a grand entrance at a concert venue.

It is quite a shock to find out that this is how he has arrived into rehab. Sick of his multiple addictions — sex, drugs, and alcohol — the time has come for a change. Just imagine the faces of the other addicts as Elton John appears amongst their number.

When first asked a question by the addiction counsellor, Elton sees a small boy out of the corner of his mind. It is from here on in that we realise this is no ordinary music biopic. This is a true musical — a film where the characters sing their feelings and conversations through Elton’s songs.

The boy, a young Elton, takes us on a journey to his childhood where his heartless father (Steven Mackintosh) is barely present, his mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) is more interested in partying and courting men who aren’t her husband, and his granny (Gemma Jones) is the only one in the world who actually cares for the child.

It is by chance that they discover that the child has a musical gear and it is soon clear he is a boy genius who can play the greatest of piano works without reading music sheets.

When he grows up, he gets some session work and finds a song writing partner, Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). Together, Bernie and Elton create magic and while a manager sees potential in their talent, he thinks that Elton’s looks and figure will never work. Lead singers need to be heartthrobs, and Elton isn’t one.

With some persuasion, they get a chance and that’s all it takes. Elton and Bernie take that chance and run with it, America is calling and so is great wealth.

With great wealth comes access to copious amounts of drugs and alcohol and a manager, John Reid (Richard Madden), a seductive calculating man who becomes Elton’s lover.

But, despite it all — the money, the fame, the access to greatness — Elton still suffers as the boy nobody cared for and the adult that never looked good enough.

It is sad to watch his pain, wrapped up in sequins and flair, played out as a modern-day fairy-tale.

This mix of fantasy and reality could have been a giant mistake, but it is used to perfect effect. Elton has lived larger than life so it makes sense that a film about him should follow in his footsteps.

The film will draw obvious comparisons with Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic directed by Dexter Fletcher who has also directed this, but the two films could not be further removed from each other.

While Rami Malik did an amazing impression of Mercury, here Egerton makes Elton his own. Yes, he is dressed to look like him, and yes, he has taken on some of Elton’s mannerisms and his accent, but it’s his spin on the man that makes this performance stand out.

Egerton also sings all of the songs, the big numbers played out as Elton did, the softer moments, the composition scenes... all contain the magic of the man himself. There is a stand-out moment when Elton first composes the music for Your Song and it’s simply spine-tingling.

Egerton’s star has been rising steadily over the last few years. He has had a couple of missteps on the way but this one sees him give a solid gold performance.

Bell gives a gorgeous, gentle performance as the man behind the famous façade and Madden is chillingly charismatic.

Bohemian Rhapsody was highly entertaining but it was flawed and certainly didn’t deserve the love it got at award seasons.

This, though, this deserves love and awards and flowers and heaps of praise. A fabulous, flamboyant portrayal of one of the world’s greatest living legends.

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