Director Dexter FLetcher’s “Rocketman,” in which Taron Egerton stars as Elton John, is built in Lee Hall’s screenplay around John’s group therapy sessions in rehab for his drug an alcohol abuse. By the end of the film a note says that John has been clean for 28 years, that he is in a gay marriage and that he and his husband have two children. But in the course of the exploration of John’s life we see him going through addiction hell along with his climb to phenomenal artistic and financial success.
Egerton’s performance realistically captures the depth of both John’s talent and his emotional wreckage. His high-octane singing and the flamboyant aura John could create are impressively on display in this visually arresting film. The film’s style is a mix of realism and the movie musical genre. We get day-to-day John mingled with imaginative flights into John’s psyche as he breaks into song off the performing stage.
Essential biographic elements are there, including his long-time friendship and collaboration with lyricist Bernie Taupin (played with credibility by Jamie Bell) and tensions that erupt between them. Importantly, there is John’s straining to come to terms with being gay at a time when that was still something to conceal in England. At one point John enters into a heterosexual marriage, but the effort fails, as we quickly see.
The film also covers the cold relation with his father and the turbulent interaction with his mother, as well as the professional associations along the way.
Best of all in the film is the recreation of John’s intense, supersized, energetic and wildly colorful rock singing that catapulted him into his vast popularity with recording sales in the millions and all the money that flowed from that, giving him the wherewithal to indulge in hard drugs and alcohol until the point of a breakdown and the need for rehab.
The personality and talent of Sir Elton is depicted in larger-than-life fashion. The mix of reality and the imagined doesn’t always work smoothly, but the overall splash and the depth of Egerton’s very credible acting as John is there, along with some of his best known numbers that he wrote and performed.
“Rocketman” is prime viewing for John fans and an entertaining introduction for those unfamiliar with what Sir Elton brought to the music world. A Paramount Pictures release. Reviewed June 16, 2019.