DIRECTOR: DEXTER FLETCHER | SCREENPLAY: LEE HALL | STARRING: TARON EGERTON, JAMIE BELL, RICHARD MADDEN, BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Tired of the standard biopic format? Apparently so is Dexter Fletcher. The up and coming British director takes such an inventive and exciting approach to Elton John’s life story that it leaves all competition firmly in the dust.
Rocketman follows the iconic musician’s life from his childhood in the 1950s, his meteoric rise to fame in the ‘70s and his experience with a highly destructive set of addictions in the years that followed. That this is a story with gleeful highs and harrowing lows is hardly surprising, but the way in which it is presented never fails to amaze. Rather than being a biopic with a few songs in it, this movie is a bona fide musical complete with elaborate dance numbers and stage design. While the choreography is striking, perhaps the most impressive thing about these scenes is their sheer accessibility. You don’t need to be a fan of the genre or even of John’s discography to enjoy them due to the infectious enthusiasm with which they are executed.
Of course, this couldn’t have been achieved without such a remarkably stellar cast. Taron Egerton leads as the rocketman himself and delivers a frankly stunning performance. He effectively embodies John’s physical mannerisms without descending into cartoonish caricature, thus never losing sight of the emotionally tortured soul within. Make no mistake, for all the fun this film has to dish out, there are more than a few tearjerker moments which rest on Egerton’s shoulders, and he knocks them out of the park. Fan or not, it would take a heart of steel to make it through this film’s finale without at least welling up a bit.
He doesn’t accomplish this alone though, as he is joined by a supporting cast that is largely just as strong. Richard Madden puts in an unnerving performance as producer John Reid, the villain of the piece and a rather loathsome one at that. Also deserving of praise are Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh as John’s parents, the latter of which doesn’t have a huge amount of screen time yet still leaves a huge impression with one particularly heart-breaking scene. Jamie Bell does a serviceable job as writing partner Bernie Taupin, yet the on-screen depiction of his friendship with John never quite resonates as completely genuine. Relatively speaking, he’s the weakest link in the main cast but still offers a fine turn with the material.
Rocketman is far more than just a biopic. It’s an experience. Putting you in the shoes of John’s chaotic younger years, you really feel his euphoric highs and crushing lows thanks to Fletcher’s superbly versatile directing, which accommodates for glitzy dreamlike sequences and moments of deeply personal trauma in equal measure. It’s thrilling, moving and thoroughly uplifting – which is quite fitting considering the title.