Taron Egerton Jamie Bell Richard Madden Bryce Dallas Howard Gemma Jones Tom Bennett
For such a flashy performer, it’s surprising that Reginald Dwight (aka Elton John) grew up in an emotionally bleak household, with everyone crying out for love and not getting it, which they all sing about). Well, except for Reggie’s grandmother (Jones), who recognized and accepted who he was and was responsible for helping him get a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. His father refused to hug him—ever—and his mother only expressed mild interest in him. All this is presented to help us understand the grown-up Elton who at the prime of his fame saw no limits to his flamboyance.
The structure of the film reflects sensitivity and psychological awareness on the part of the director, Dexter Fletcher, and writer, Lee Hall. We see Elton first in full regalia entering into a group therapy session in which his stories of his life are seen in flashback, starting with his childhood, his entry into the music world, the acme of his career, then the inevitable slide down as his indulgent lifestyle catches up with him. Themes reflect those early experiences of shyness, insecurity, loneliness, and the sense that everyone will leave him. It’s only after heart-breaking experience and therapy that he begins to get insight into his own role in disappointing relationships with others.
The thrilling scenes in Rocketman show the incredible, rapid rise of this multi-talented star in singing and piano playing, along with his glittering showmanship. The music and the visual presentation are glorious. Likely, as a response to the bleakness and need for love, a brilliant imagination took hold and carried Elton soaring into the intoxicating reaches of fame.
Taron Egerton embodies Elton John ideally, in that we forget we are seeing him rather than Elton. Taron captures the voice (perhaps not the piano playing, but it’s still convincing) and personality of Elton, in all its resplendence, recklessness, anguish, pouting, and joy. Jamie Bell’s performance as his trusted longtime lyricist, loyal collaborator, and friend works so well as a contrast to the showman, while capturing the genuineness in his feelings toward a superstar. Other actors deserving mention are Richard Madden as the irrepressible agent resembling Elton’s father in his ultimately unemotional business self, Gemma Jones as the savior-like grammy, Bryce Dallas Howard as the self-preoccupied mother, and Tom Bennett as the step-father who gets on board and manages to contribute in a dysfunctional family.
Musician Matthew Margeson, cinematographer George Richmond, and costume designer Julian Day and their teams contribute significantly to the artistic presentations that dazzle us and keep us entertained throughout the film.
I’d like to recognize and applaud Elton John’s willingness to have his life portrayed in all his glory, pathos, and self-centeredness. Only those who have achieved confidence and satisfaction with themselves could afford such a revealing picture. It’s eloquently embodied in one of the last scenes of the film, when the adult John is finally able to embrace the child Reggie. Insight and therapy can achieve such wondrous results!
An unusual film about a major rock star who eventually finds redemption from excessiveness.