When the music is this good we tend not to worry about the reliability of the narrator!
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Biopic.
Main Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Bryce-Dallas Howard, Richard Madden,
Runtime: 121 mins
MDb rating: 7.3/10.
My rating: 8/10.
Quick summary: Known by almost everybody in the world, Elton John’s rise to success was as mad and colourful as the costumes he wore. Join the support group as Elton himself brings us on a fantastical journey the blends truth and mystery into one giant cocktail!
We’ve all sung along and danced to Sir Elton‘s music. His songs tell the most vivid stories. Each lyric can be dissected and attached to a moment in his life or a subject he is talking about. As the music moves within us and we move to the music we feel a tale being played out. Listening to his music leaves you full and satisfied.
I must admit that I had really only listened to a handful of Elton John songs before I saw this movie. Your Song, Tiny Dancer and Candle in the Wind are some of my favourite songs but other than those three I hadn’t given the rest of his catalog a chance. It is possibly the highest praise I can give a musical that since watching this film I have thoroughly explored most of the songs I missed out on. Prepare to be tapping your foot in time with the beat and staring with your mouth half open at the two hour spectacle you will witness.
The most important thing to remember about this film is that we are dealing with an unreliable narrator. I know what you may be thinking. How can Elton John, writer of such extremely personal songs that lay bare to the truths in his life, be deemed as unreliable? Well, he was off his head on drugs and drink for the majority of the film, for one. The first scene shows him leaving Madison Square Garden, hopping in a cab and heading straight to what looks like a group AA meeting. He then tells his life story from cold beginning to the similar present. He always struggled with finding sustainable love around him and pushed away the only friend that was loyal to him.
What sparked me to think about this role of Elton as the narrator of his own story was a conversation with my girlfriend after the movie. We compared this movie and Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddy Mercury biopic which saw Ramy Malek scoop the Best Actor gong at the Oscars for the previous year. Both showed the trials and tribulations of two musical geniuses who were unfortunately manipulated by some around them and in turn suffered with substance abuse. K, although I disagreed with her at the time, rightly so said that Bohemian Rhapsody showed Freddy Mercury in a much more negative light throughout parts of the movie. I know that people have problems with Mercury’s biopic and the veracity of some of the details, but it did go into his darker periods, showing the dark and the light of being a world famous frontman. Rocketman, while also showing dark periods of Elton’s life, portrayed him as the forgiver and amends-maker.
Of course, the whole film is filled with fantastical sets, historical tweak and mind-bending drug binges, so the narrator was never reliable to begin with, was he?!
Taron Egerton is fantastic as Elton John. He is one of the major stars of British cinema and his turn as the rock King/Queen was impeccable. There are certain points of the film where the effects start to blend Egerton and John’s faces together and it is honestly hard to tell which is which.
Jamie Bell is brilliant as the unassuming Bernie Taupin, John’s songwriter and closest friend.
Richard Madden is deliciously vile as lover, manager and all-round bastard John Reid, who gets his hooks into Elton and drags him down even as his star continues to rise.
This film, like many biopics, gets more and more serious as time goes on. We get to see Elton’s relationship with his estranged father and we see the deterioration of his relationship with his family and friends. We all know that it has worked out since for him, but the film doesn’t let us forget that to reach the top, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom. Is that a cliché? Well, that’s showbusiness!