Cast--Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard
Akin to his deft touch on the piano keys, Rocketman, Elton John's biopic, slides past smoothly, not a single phase out; a beautiful symphony, designed to stay with you for a cherished callback like the maestro's rousing, spectacular discography.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher, who guides a young and emotionally determined Taron Egerton as the man himself, Rocketman restrains itself to fleshing out the tragic times behind the legendary singer-composer, who at one point in time turned into a decadent drug abuser and a people-hating person, which are also the general standards that almost every musical star, who has had a journey to fame, must encounter and live up to.
Starting and ending in the midst of a confession group, the story takes us from the loveless world of Reginald Dwight, a shy kid in Pinner, living with his mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) and an emotionally distant father (Steven Mackintosh), who are both unknowingly planting the seeds of creative genius, to the insides of a rehab, where the great Elton John (played by Taron Egerton) is a janitor waiting to get sober, afraid if he could ever make music and magic again without using cocaine or alcohol. In that, Rocketman intricately sums up the story of poor upbringing, identity crisis, glory days of music and the eventual coming-to-terms with thinking and feeling, wanting and needing.
All of John's pain and his complicated journey towards self identification as a gay man is at the heart of this tragic and tumultuous musical. Rocketman could have just flown off the stage and burst into some mesmerisingly unexpected collage of colours, but the story-screenplay at hand does not allow that kind of a thrust. Instead it heavily relies on making surreal moments out of montages, carefully sewing in John's emotions at each checkpoint and most importantly his encounters with men and difficulty in attracting the kind of love he thinks he deserves.
Taron Egerton and Richard Madden in a still from Rocketman
Great thing being this dedication to zero digression holds your attention in this rather single track, monotone period drama, but as one starts to reach out beyond all the flashy display, they start seeing themselves in John, a self-deprecating and brooding human, which to some could be quite off putting, thus making Rocketman not everyone's poison.
Interestingly, when John finds bliss with a loving partner by his side--a traditional happy ending--the film has ended and images of his benevolent real-life self start fading in. Almost like Rocketman keeps the catharsis away from Egerton, who was once punched and intimidated by his lover cum manager, John Reid, played here by a conniving and taciturn Richard Madden.
Taron Egerton in a still from Rocketman
What Rocketman paints beautifully is a picture of the musician's life, both the incredible highs and tragic lows. Egerton is both compelling and flawed and the scenes in which we go close to him, courtesy of contrast lighting and evocative close ups, we can see a real life John, more than the one created for reel and showbiz. And that's the strength of this biopic--it's lead, who puts on an entertaining and unrestrained show every time like there's no tomorrow. The film is packing a star in Egerton and don't miss it if you are a sucker for authenticity in acting.
In hindsight, Rocketman is genuinely fun times at the movies and this particular Elton John musical proves its worth as a cinematic conversation with the viewers. However, all this is not without giving time to the superstar in all his splendour and his flaws, most of all his relationships with the audience, friends and lovers.
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