Taron Egerton as Elton John in ROCKETMAN (2019)

Taron Egerton as Elton John in ROCKETMAN (2019). Photo Credit: David Appleby © 2018 Paramount Pictures

Dexter Fletcher’s ROCKETMAN takes a brutal look back at Elton John’s hedonistic lifestyle in a film as flamboyant as its subject

4 out of 5 stars

Fresh from the success of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, Director Dexter Fletcher returns to the big screen with his latest biopic, ROCKETMAN, an exciting, explosive and exuberant tribute to music legend Elton John.

Described as a “musical fantasy”, ROCKETMAN follows the singer’s transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into an international superstar Elton John. Using a rehab group therapy scene as a hook to transport us back in time, the film takes a brutal look back at Elton’s hedonistic lifestyle, the astronomic record-sales, the coke, the booze and the complex relationship Elton has with himself and those around him.

At this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking ROCKETMAN sounds like your standard biopic, especially as it hits the emotional points that so often feature in a musical biopic – a love affair with sly manager John Reid (Richard Madden), a difficult childhood with his unhappy mum (Bryce Dallas Howard) and aloof father Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) and a misjudged straight marriage to his former wife Renate Blauel (Celinde Schoenmaker) in an attempt to deal with his own homosexuality. But in reality, ROCKETMAN is so much more. In fact, this rousing and emotional affair is as flamboyant as its subject.

Taron Egerton as Elton John in ROCKETMAN (2019)

Taron Egerton as Elton John in ROCKETMAN (2019). Photo Credit: David Appleby © 2018 Paramount Pictures

Fletcher directs with real style here, staging the lavish musical sequences with such panache that they almost become mini-movies in themselves. This is a musical in every sense of the word, sometimes the songs woven realistically into the action as Elton performs one of his belters live on stage, other times becoming part of a fantasy sequence. The musician’s first performance at the Troubadour in Los Angeles – a set so full of emotion and energy that the audience, and Elton, literally take off – stands out as a particular highlight, as does an inventive pool party sequence, which sees an emergency dash to hospital following a suicide attempt merge into a triumphant show at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stadium.

Taron Egerton delivers an impressive performance as the flamboyant musician, looking and sounding every bit the part as he dons the sequinned costumes and wacky glasses and commands the stage in the musical numbers. Egerton has clearly worked hard to impersonate the subject’s traits, mannerisms and vocal delivery, even if he seems more comfortable with scenes involving tiaras rather than tantrums.

Not everything is covered here, the film focusing more on the years when Elton was abusing alcohol and drugs and ending disconcertingly before he meets the true love of his life David Furnish. Elton’s behaviour during this time is brattish and self-indulgent and as such, doesn’t make him very good company. In fact, as the film progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to sympathise with the fabulously wealthy rock star as he falls further and further into a spiral of drink, drugs and meaningless sex.

Taron Egerton as Elton John in ROCKETMAN (2019).

Taron Egerton as Elton John in ROCKETMAN (2019). Photo Credit: David Appleby © 2018 Paramount Pictures

That said, in the even the darkest scenes, Fletcher manages to lighten the mood with some ironic humour and it isn’t long before we’re soon back into an inventive musical sequence that is sure to put a smile on your face.

Fletcher also does a decent job at reminding us just how good Elton’s music really is, reigniting a love and passion for musical numbers like BENNY AND THE JETS, TINY DANCER, I’M STILL STANDING and CROCODILE ROCK.

With its big elaborate numbers and inventive musical sequences, ROCKETMAN may not be to everyone’s taste but that’s what makes it so appealing. Just like the man himself, expect the unexpected.

ROCKETMAN is released in UK cinemas from 22 May 2019