Director: Dexter Fletcher
ELTON JOHN has never been one to hold back on emotion — or throwing a party. And he didn’t disappoint at the Rocketman bash in Cannes last week, when a huge pair of sunglasses were the centrepiece, and a visibly moved Elton spoke of his joy at making this film. As well he might — because it’s a winner.
‘Based on a true fantasy’, the film traces the singer’s rise to fame, shown in flashbacks as he attends group therapy for addiction to booze and drugs. The great bit is that we know he got through it — he’s been sober for 28 years — which allows this to be an uplifting story of tears and triumph, with a soundtrack to match.
Musical interludes flit between toe-tapping and emotional: we see him setting LA on fire with a performance of Crocodile Rock and composing Your Song in a Pinner living room with his family and beloved songwriter Bernie Taupin (an excellent Jamie Bell).
His relationship with Taupin is the beating heart of the film, along with his pain over his absent father (Steven Mackintosh). Taron Egerton is a spot-on performer who convinces as a naturally gifted musician — it’s hard to imagine original hire Tom Hardy in the role. It’s a less showy transformation than the turn that won Rami Malek an Oscar for playing Freddie Mercury but it’s no less convincing and heartfelt.
Not all the casting works — for example American actress Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s distant mother and Richard Madden with his smarmy turn as manager John Reid. But it’s hard to care when there’s another song and a smile around the corner.
Director Dexter Fletcher completed Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer quit and, entertaining as that was, he makes a smoother job of this biopic.
This also digs deeper into its hero’s coming-out story, and doesn’t shy away from bedroom scenes (yes, the Bodyguard disrobes again). Along with all the drugs, this makes it less family-friendly than the Queen story, but more interesting — with the convenient caveat of the word ‘fantasy’.
Pure Elton, and pure pleasure. And thanks to an unforgettable launch party, Rocketman was a blast all round.