Hot on the heels of Rami Malek’s Oscar-winning turn as Freddie Mercury, we have Taron Egerton going into camp hyperdrive as Elton John in this musical extravaganza charting the rise to superstardom of young Reggie Dwight from Pinner in suburban northwest London. This is not exactly the “plain unvarnished truth”, since once his career took off Elton didn’t really do Plain or Unvarnished.
Egerton does a great job capturing Elton’s growly vocal style and his weird combination of shyness and monstrous egotism. It’s a performance that rivals Michael Douglas’s take on Liberace, who is briefly glimpsed on Elton’s gran’s telly and whom he clearly drew on for inspiration. As in Candelabra, the script doesn’t hesitate to show the star’s battle with homosexuality. Elton has a crush on Bernie Taupin (nicely played by Jamie Bell) who isn’t gay but loves Elton and cherishes their Stan-and-Ollie/Eric-and-Ernie partnership. Elton has a stormy relationship with his second manager John Reid (Richard Maddon – fantasy-fulfilling to see him playing gay!). His happy-ever-after with David Furnish comes later than this timeframe.
The other movie I was reminded of was Moulin Rouge in the way some of the songs are not just performed but acted into scenes that carry the story forward. Bell and Maddon both get to sing.
Elton’s addictions to booze, drugs and sexual excess (and shopping!) are not skated over, just as they weren’t in the Liberace movie. Rocketman is a story with a message about the dangers that fame brings with it. At another level it’s simply a great musical biopic.