Celebrating the life of Sir Elton John
By Casey Lee
Premiering to a standing ovation at this year's Cannes Film Festival, Dexter Fletcher’s directorial of a musician's biopic that could go on to be remembered as the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ of 2019.
Rather than exploring the length of Elton John's four decade long career as a best-selling musician, Rocketman takes only a snippet from his debut to his rehabilitation years as he makes his grand entrance to a therapy session in his grandiose costume. Starting with his life as Reginald Dwight to an uninterested family and a borderline abusive mother, we follow his story as he finds small fame in his little English hometown, his partnership with life-long lyricist Bernie Taupin, through to his American breakthrough, his consecutive topping of the charts and finally his struggle with drugs. That means there isn't a lot to say for anyone who has been a lifetime fan of Elton John, and director Dexter Flectcher leans on that knowledge to extrapolate a colourful and visual retelling that is as larger than life as the man himself.
Reuniting with his Eddie the Eagle lead, the pianist virtuoso may be a larger than life role for young Taron Egerton to tackle, but he manages to play it convincingly dressed in the flamboyant costumes or electrifying the piano. Aside from a few removals of Elton John's more intimate and defining moments with his lovers by our Malaysian censors, Rocketman does not stay grounded on the drama but lifts off quickly into the rhythms of a musical, giving a surreal celebration through the major life events of John in full technicolor. Dressed in flair with back-to-back resonance of John's greatest hits releases corresponding to the period of his life, the celebratory tone still does soften Elton's decline into an all-too familiar narrative of a superstar who succumbs to his drug-addled rise, ingrained resentment towards those he trusts, and the inner cry of childhood issues that collapses him from within. Some of these are done at the expense of glossing over some major life events that defined his sexuality, like his short-lived marriage to a female partner that started in one scene and ends in the next without any exploration or real development in between.
Rocketman is a spectacular yet safe biopic of a singer, sex icon and addict that does not necessarily shed much light on those topics, but leaves everyone dazzled by the impressive costume, reenactments and music. Rocketman is for the fan who want to watch Elton John's life montage in an extended, albeit still enjoyable, music video, and to see the mileage of Taron Egerton into the Oscar race.