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When your feet just can’t keep still

A review of Rocketman

Biopics of larger-than-life stars are having a moment, but does Rocketman serve justice to the big personality and life of its subject?

At its core, the Elton John biopic Rocketman is a story about love. Love between friends. Love between family. Romantic love. Self love. Elton John’s rise, fall and phoenix-like rise again centres on a deeply felt desire to be loved against the brilliant soundtrack of his music.

The film opens on Elton John (played to perfection by Taron Egerton) walking down the halls of a rehab centre, a demonic orange angel dripping sequins as he glides. Larger than life indeed.

It is a fitting start as we then launch straight into the muted tones of his childhood. It is clear that the adult Elton John doesn’t belong in his past, his fluoro garb a harsh contrast. The muted colours of the past quickly appraise the audience of Elton John’s somewhat bleak childhood with little affection offered by either of his parents (played by Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Macintosh).

Music is both an escape and a source of life and colour for the child Reggie and continues to be so for the adult Elton.

Though Elton focuses on love from his parents and later romantic partners to validate his own sense of self, it becomes very clear to the audience two things.

  1. Elton has in fact been blessed with great love in his life, though not the parental or romantic forms he has been searching for.
  2. Elton’s own anxiety prevents him from seeing the love around him and accepting himself.

It is not a spoiler to say that when Elton finally comes to terms with his past and battles his internal demons, he is finally able to recognise love. As a living and larger-than-life personality, we know the ending of the story before it began, we just don’t know the internals.

Fortunately, given the trauma of the past can be painful, turning the film into a musical featuring Elton John’s hits keeps the pace moving and offers hope and joy even in the darkest moments. It’s almost impossible to stay in your seat, and even more difficult to stop yourself from singing along.

While most can easily name a few Elton John songs, on a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to forget the sheer volume of hits John has been involved in over the course of his career. As a showcase, the movie play a fine line between acting as a best-of compilation while keeping the pace going. Featuring a few chords of one song here, or an entire piece sung by the cast at another point allows the music to blend into the story of Rocketman and remind the audience of the talent of its subject.

The film is a wonderful tribute to the extraordinary talent and friendship between Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin (played by Jamie Bell). While Elton John is easily recognisable for film-goers of any age, Bernie Taupin is lesser known and the film offers insight into a lifelong partnership. You could say that the two are soulmates and this has been embedded into their many global hits.

Critics of the film have noted a variety of inaccuracies throughout. Whether this is an issue or not really depends on how you want to view Rocketman. It is not a documentary, but rather an insight into a flamboyant life. All the best storytellers exaggerate for entertainment. This is perhaps the best way to look at Rocketman. It doesn’t have to stick strictly to facts to be enjoyed.

Rocketman is great fun and a pleasure to watch. Whether it does justice or not to Elton John can only truly be known to the man himself, his family and friends, but from an onlooker perspective, it must be close. It’s a film worth seeing, particularly for those who love the music. Just have your singing voice ready and dancing shoes on.