You know, like Phoebe in Friends, we too thought Tiny Dancer was a song about Tony Danza. We kid, of course, but it segues into talking about legendary pop star Sir Elton John as he is is the latest in the long line of performers to have their lives brought to the big-screen and be given the biopic treatment. But while many of its counterparts take a more pragmatic approach, Dexter Fletcher’s film is a fully-fledged, get-up-and-shake-yourself musical extravaganza that brings the music of the great man into a new realm but also allows itself to play with our expectations and break the mould.
Those expecting something similar to the bafflingly super-successful Bohemian Rhapsody – almost a $1billion grossed across the globe and multiple Oscars wins – will be surprised in the best possible way for Rocketman is the film that should have been. As flamboyant and endearing as its subject, Dexter Fletcher‘s toe-tapping, kaleidoscopic endeavour is all about celebration and transportation, taking all of us back to those legendary performances and moments through John’s illustrious career with all the verve, style and endless energy that would have been bursting from the stage at all those wild live events.
Smartly plotted by writer Lee Hall (he of Billy Elliot fame), this tells us the story we know, the one we don’t and the one we never knew we wanted to know, all beautifully woven together so that it feels more like a big Broadway or West End musical than a straightforward biopic. Where Bo Rhap thought it right to pummel through this key events in the band’s life (with many timeline liberties), Hall and Fletcher takes the road less travelled, utilising the music as a tool to tell John’s, and indeed those closest to him, to help us go deeper, treading in choppier waters while still maintaining all the spectacle of his performing and the themes of his music. It doesn’t always work perfectly and in some moments we lose a few dramatic beats but when it does work, it soars high and bright and Fletcher’s unique eye and some superb editing make it undeniably entertaining.
Of course, like Bo Rhap, this will no doubt be a contender come awards season – heck, this could do a Greatest Showman and play for the next year in different cinemas, with a ding-a-ling surely only weeks away – and leading the charge will be Egerton who is quite simply magnificent. He hasn’t always convinced (ahem Robin Hood, ahem Kingsman 2) but in a perfect marriage of material and actor, this is his moment and he revels in every single second with a performance brimming with confidence and boy does he knock it out of the park. Sings all the songs himself, too. The contributions of Jamie Bell, Richard Madden and Bryce Dallas Howard cannot be understated, either, with Bell in particular absolutely stellar as Bernie Taupin. He may well be see himself in the mix come February.
There’s so much to enjoy with Rocketman – many of the brilliantly performed musical numbers are some of the most electrifying sequences we will see all year – and while it loses itself a little heading into the big finish, this is one time that you won’t mind how long the film takes to touch back down again
Scott J.Davis | ★★★ 1/2
Biography, Drama | UK, 2019 | 15 | 22nd May 2019 (UK) | Paramount Pictures | Dir.Dexter Fletcher | Taron Egerton,Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Stephen Graham, Gemma Jones