Opening 30 May 2019
In this docudrama Elton John tells his own life story through actor Taron Egerton. First we see Elton (whose birth name was Reginald Kenneth Dwight) at age five (played by Matthew Illesley); he is already a genius on the piano. His father Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) is a music lover, but has very little compassion for his son, keeping him at arm’s length if he happens to be at home, which is seldom. His mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) is also uninterested in her son and begins an affair, which causes Stanley to move out. Only his grandmother Ivy (Gemma Jones), who also shares the household, is somewhat sensitive to this small boy, whom they call Reggie. Soon Reggie (now older and played by Kit Connor) is accepted into the London Royal Academy of Music. He begins with classical music, but is drawn to Rock and Roll. In 1967, at age 20 (now played by Egerton), he has organized a band called Bluesologie, played in clubs, and met Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), who writes song texts. Eventually he assumes his stage name: Elton Hercules John. He composes music for Taupin’s texts. A manager sees a bright future, which does indeed shine by 1970, when, at age 23, he performs in Los Angeles at the Troubadour Club to great success. Just two years later, Elton John is on his way to becoming a superstar multi-millionaire, and never looks back, although there are rocky times interspersed with alcohol, drugs, depression and compulsive shopping. His manager John Reid (Richard Madden) has little understanding for Elton John’s personal life, being only interested in over-booking and collecting his 20% of the proceeds. Friends, such as Bernie, recognize Elton’s insecurity and attempt to stand by him. Another friend gives advice, “Kill the person you were born to be to become the person you want to be.” Easier said than done.
A comparison between Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody is inevitable. Both films are directed by Dexter Fletcher and present the lives of two famous British singers (Elton John and Freddy Mercury); both leading roles are played by British actors who sing all of the songs themselves. John Reid managed both singers at intervals during their careers. Bohemian Rhapsody was excellent, winning four Oscar Awards in 2018, including best actor for Rami Malek, as Freddie Mercury. Rocketman is even better and must win many more awards. The story moves swiftly forward from 1952 to the present, accompanied by 41 songs, mostly original compositions by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, ending with “I’m Still Standing,” which reflects the whole story in a nutshell. There is a huge cast of dancers and musicians, as well as excellent actors. Perhaps you are not an Elton John fan, but you soon will be, upon leaving this film after 120 minutes of heavenly music, top acting, as well as exquisite costumes and a huge collection of eye glasses. Believe me. (Becky Tan)