Before he became the flamboyant piano legend & international superstar Sir Elton John, he was a shy boy named Reginald Dwight. ‘Rocketman’ explores his formative years, tracing his origins through his music, as he began his journey into one of the most iconic artists of our time. Played by Taron Egerton, we discover how some of his biggest hits came to life through his collaborations with his best friend, Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). As Elton John defined his stage personality over his years of success, the film highlights how Reginald Dwight’s problems manifested in various forms of addiction.
Director Dexter Fletcher knows that musical biopics are meant to offer insight into the mindset and psyche of what makes an artist tick. He presents the far-from-perfect life of Elton John in all its flawed, yet fabulous glory, without skimming over the parts that most others would rather forget. The film starts with the celebrated performer in rehab, dressed in a devilish costume, baring his demons to a group of strangers, as he begins to reminisce about his colourful life. This perfectly sets the tone for the film to make it clear this is not a fairy-tale sing-along. From there on out, the discography of Elton John’s career is used to fuel the narrative structure, while never being overbearing because it stays focused on its subject.
But that wouldn’t be as effective without Taron Egerton’s commitment to the lead role. He completely immerses himself into character, crooning Elton John’s hit singles that bring more credibility to the role beyond just a strong resemblance. Egerton also handles the emotionally heavy scenes with grace, particularly seen in the rockstar’s torrid affair with his manager John Reid (Richard Madden) and the estranged relationship with his parents, played by Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh. Their performances are certainly remarkable, but none more so than Jamie Bell as Bernie – Elton’s longstanding friend and songwriting partner. It’s impossible not to feel the soul of the music they created, which, if they weren’t massive hits already, are further elevated by their portrayals in this film. Similarly, ‘Rocketman’ raises the bar of what can be achieved in a musical biography. Rest assured this won’t be forgotten any time soon, certainly not during awards season.