Netflix UK film review: Rocketman
Ivan Radford | On 26, Oct 2019
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden
Watch Rocketman online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
An alcoholic. A sex addict. A shopaholic. A drug addict. When we first meet Elton John in Rocketman, he isn’t shy about his many flaws, sharing each issue in a therapy group with a graphic honesty. That he delivers all of this while dressed as a fiery demon is at once irrelevant and key to the film’s barnstorming success; this biopic is grounded in bleak details yet infused with an extravagance and stuffed with heart. In other words, it’s a lot like his songs, because what Rocketman gets is one simple truth: Elton, above all things, is a music addict.
Music is, at once, a form of confession and denial, of freedom and confinement. While many biopics of musicians are content to move from one life event to another and detail the origins of each track as they go, Rocketman flips that approach on its head; it tells the story through the songs, not the other way around, fuelling the mood, plot and revelations with every Elton hit you could name.
The result is a real life story that’s elevated just a few feet off the ground, heightening the highs and lows of John’s career and personal life. It means a boundless playground for Taron Egerton, who inhabits John rather than impersonate him, capturing his exuberance, his vulnerability, his irresistible vocals and his burning passions. At times, you can swear you’re watching a young Elton playing himself – even when he appears to fly off stage during one concert in LA, or when he steps from his adulthood to his childhood in the blink of an eye.
If Egerton is the star of the show, though, he shares the spotlight with the movie’s maestro: Dexter Fletcher. The Sunshine on Leith and Wild Bill director crafts Rocketman as a musical not as a biopic, choreographic epic set pieces that piece together the enigma and inner torment of the singer without worrying about things such as chronology or even mainstream appeal; the inspired script, penned by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), doesn’t shy away from John’s personal life, from his time with slimy lover and manager John Reid (Richard Madden delivering a career-best turn) to his intimate bond with lyricist Bernie Taupin (an unrecognisable Jamie Bell). Bryce Dallas Howard also gets the space to make an impact as Elton’s estranged mum, Sheila, and Stephen Graham steals several scenes as his publisher Dick James.
The result is an electrifying ride through an uninhibited career, a portrait of a larger-than-life icon that dreams even larger. It fizzes with hedonistic pleasure, sings with heartfelt sincerity, bursts with toe-tapping energy and explodes with sequin-studded colour. It’s easy to see why Fletcher was parachuted in at the last minute to rescue Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody: this astonishing piece of cinema is a tour de force from all involved that captures Elton John’s sprit with a feel-good groove, but couldn’t be anyone’s song but his.
Rocketman is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: © 2018 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.