Rocketman isn’t the standard music biopic movie you’re used to – the formulaic rise to fame and fortune, accompanied by drug and alcohol misuse and a troubled, lonely life. The story of Elton John, the musician whose life this movie is about, certainly does have all of those elements, but Rocketman presents them in such a crazy and original way. Weaving classic songs into the storytelling and providing a wonderfully welcome and heart warming fantasy element to the movie.
The story begins with a middle-aged Elton (Taron Egerton), dressed in one of his trademark outrageous outfits (this time a winged devil costume, complete with horns!), as he marches into a group therapy session and informs everyone that he is addicted to cocaine, sex and prescription drugs. “For as long as I can remember I’ve hated myself” he continues, before starting to recall his childhood years to the group. He sees his younger self across the room, looking at him as the first song kicks in. It’s presented in a way which is more like something out of a musical though, with both versions of Elton involved in the singing and dancing, not to mention the members of the therapy group!
That therapy room is where much of the story is told, rejoining Elton at various stages of his recovery as he recounts the moments of his life that shaped him and brought him to the point he’s at now. We initially join the younger version of Elton that we saw in the opening number, or Reggie Dwight as he was known back then, tinkling out his first few notes on the family piano and never feeling fully accepted by his family. His dad is uncaring and cold towards him, never once giving him the simple hug he craves, while his mum (brilliantly played by Bryce Dallas Howard) eventually proves herself to be not that much better than dad either as time goes on. Only Reggie’s Nan seems to offer him any kind of support and encouragement, and it’s not long before Reggie is receiving piano lessons, attending music school and playing small gigs in the local pubs.
Fast forward a few years to Elton as a young man (played by Egerton from this point onwards), as he starts to get noticed by the right people in those pub gigs. He’s paired with Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) where they form the partnership which will go on to last a lifetime – Bernie providing the lyrics, Elton providing the music and the performance. They form a strong friendship, and it’s fun to see them growing together as artists, revealing how such classic songs came from such simple beginnings. It’s not long before Elton is on the fast track to becoming a global superstar, performing at the Troubadour club in LA where he immediately wows the audience. It’s there that he catches the eye of John Reid (Richard Madden), who he starts a disastrous romantic relationship with, as well as taking him on as his manager.
From there the movie becomes a roller-coaster ride of emotions, carried along by an outstanding, and I’d say Oscar worthy, performance from Egerton. Singing all of the songs, and portraying perfectly the highs and lows of Elton John’s incredible career. As mentioned previously, he’s also supported by what is an amazing cast, all sharing the singing duties with him. Familiar songs that give extra meaning and insight as they seamlessly integrate within the story. And they’re also completely bonkers at times too! A song performed underwater, a song where everyone in the bar levitates off the ground, Elton firing up into the sky like a rocket and exploding like a firework! Despite all of this though, Rocketman still manages to feel relatable and believable and is a complete joy to watch.