Film Review: Rocketman

When one considers that a young piano-playing prodigy (Mathew Illesley) grows up to be a millionaire by 25, and that four per cent of all record sales were attributed to Elton John, one has a fair amount of idea of the subject. The grown-up Elton John (now played by Taron Egerton), born Reginald Dwight, is one of the most successful names in the music business.

The film opens in the 80s with a jazzily decked up John walking into a rehab meeting and narrating his life story in flashback mode. As a child, his parents Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) were detached, even hostile. It was primarily this near-destructive relationship that made Elton a victim who, in later years was seduced, used and abused. Duncan Fletcher, who co-directed Bohemian Rhapsody, is on familiar territory here. Elton’s intimate relationship with manager, John Reid (Richard Malden) first, and then with his lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), with whom he had an emotionally lasting, and fruitful association, are brought out explicitly and in various shades. His substance addiction too is unabashedly shown – “I’ve taken every drug there is in the world.”
As in Rhapsody, the chronology of songs do not conform. Crocodile Rock, Tiny Dancer, I’m Still Standing, are some stunningly choreographed songs. Fletcher and writer Lee Hall project Elton’s frail relationships – in a wonderfully and poignantly written earlier scene, after becoming a millionaire, he visits his father who’s moved on in life. It’s one of the most enduring ones. Rocketman is in substance (pun unintended), Egerton’s vibrant and energetic portrayals of one of the most colourful (literally) music personalities of recent times.

Hoshang K. Katrak
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