Dexter’s Laboratory of Film & Music: A Review of 'Rocketman'
While the names of Elton John and main star Taron Egerton will inevitably be the names that come first to mind when one speaks of the biopic Rocketman; the third name deserving honorable mention each time we refer to the film should be Director Dexter Fletcher. For those not familiar with actor/director Dexter, he was the one brought in to finish Bohemian Rhapsody when Bryan Singer was relieved of his duties. He previously directed Taron in Eddie the Eagle; and like some mad scientist, he’s created some cinematic sorcery and magic here in Rocketman.
The film pretty much follows basic pop star biopic formula; young tubby lad Reggie Dwight transforms to singer/songwriter Elton John in the late 1960’s, and despite the stellar talent, can’t handle success. We examine his relationship with Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), who wrote the lyrics, with abusive manager and lover John Reid (Richard Madden), and lying at the root of his insecurities and flawed approach to life — the issues with his mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) and absentee father, Stanley (Steven Mackintosh). Despite enjoying unprecedented global success, he descends into a life of pills, cocaine, alcohol, and gay relationships that lead nowhere. This is what the film is out to portray; as we well know that Sir Elton survived all this by going on the wagon, and is now pleasantly enjoying his 72 years of life.
It’s in bringing this story to screen life, and framing it with a middle-aged Elton entering rehab and painfully recounting his life, that Dexter Fletcher makes the film take off. It makes us wonder how much better Bohemian Rhapsody might have been if Fletcher had been in control from the start. With Rocketman, he employs a non linear approach that takes all the solid gold hits of Sir Elton, rearranges them imaginatively, and makes them pay service to particular junctures in life, and telling emotions, of Elton’s life.
With so many great but familiar songs to choose from, it’s a wonder that Fletcher still manages to surprise us time and time again. The title song, “Rocket Man,” sung underwater, Elton’s “Crocodile Rock” sung at the Troubadour in Los Angeles making the whole room levitate —these are just two instances where the color, vibe, and panache of the film’s treatment elevate the material to something transcendent and enjoyable to the nth degree. And Taron Egerton is more than up to the task at hand. The official Rocketman soundtrack is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.
If Rami Malek astounded us with his Freddie Mercury transformation and he garnered numerous acting awards, how do we celebrate Welshman Egerton who not only acts and dances, but sings his own parts in the film? If you watched the animated feature Sing back in 2016, Taron was the gorilla who coincidentally sang “I’m Still Standing,” an Elton John tune, during the talent show. Here in Rocketman, Taron gives us a textured, nuanced portrayal of Elton John. It’s electrifying, and even when the story bogs down at the very end, Taron remains a presence we can’t stop watching.
Sir Elton Hercules John has always been a much-loved figure. Outrageous, a pop-star peacock, he brought glam to pop without compromising the music and tunes. Taron Egerton is fantastic here in this biopic; but like I said, a shout-out as well to Dexter Fletcher for giving this film a larger than life, music-infused veneer, that makes the film shine like it’s subject.
Rocketman will be out in theaters on July 19 in the Philippines.
Photos from Paramount