ROCKETMAN – an Elton Fantasy Musical Masterpiece

I have never seen a movie where I have burst into spontaneous tears at its sheer brilliance and ROCKETMAN did it to me three times. I cry a lot in movies, I’m basically an emotional kettle always waiting to boil and ROCKETMAN was a cinematic conduit straight to my soul.

ROCKETMAN is out today, Thursday 30th May in Australia from the fine folks at Paramount Pictures Australia who I cannot thank enough for inviting Salty to the premiere last weekend. It was a privilege dressing up as camp as we could get and walking the red carpet with Taron Egerton and Dexter Fletcher. Experiencing a film of this kind of musical fantasy celebration with such a huge audience, also excited to see Elton portrayed on the big screen is a movie screening I will not soon forget.

It is rated M and runs for 121mins.

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman
Taron Egerton

BY JASON KING

ROCKETMAN SYNOPSIS:

ROCKETMAN is a musical fantasy about the formative years of Sir Elton John, a man I have been in the presence of twice. Once at his Sydney concert in the 80s, the one where he actually collapsed on stage – 10min rest and back onstage out of his 18th Century Royal Court attire to smash out more tunes, and at a Billy Elliot Stage performance a couple of years back now. He surprised the audience and turned up to watch the show – and sat about five rows in front of me – you could say that was one special Billy Elliot performance.

ROCKETMAN doesn’t hold back and shows the tumultuous, sometimes heartbreaking, but never a dull moment of the creation of a legend. It shows tunes aplenty, all performed by Taron Egerton, with some of them live performances. Never once did it skip a beat and it shines a light into how Elton came to be, from lack of love, to a manager who ripped him off, to first love, and a life of addiction. It should be noted as of 2019 Elton has been sober for 28yrs. This film ends 28yrs ago.

Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin and Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman
Jamie Bell and Taron Egerton

I BURST INTO TEARS THREE TIMES AT THE PERFECTION OF ROCKETMAN:

What makes ROCKETMAN so special is the risk that Dexter Fletcher took, mostly under the approval and encouragement of Elton (as Producer). It wasn’t to sweep Elton’s darker parts of life, most notably the homosexuality under the carpet. Whereas BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY mostly ignored the sexual proclivities of Freddie – ROCKETMAN is Elton in all his glory – the movie also boasts the first open gay sex scene in a film from a large commercial Hollywood film studio. It also gets down and dirty with Elton’s drug use and his less than impressive tempramental side, probably a side effect of so many drugs.

But then they present ROCKETMAN as Elton presented his life. Bright, colourful, a fantasy musical covered in sequins if you will. Elton and the audience float off the ground in one scene, in another he becomes the Rocketman floating into space, when in reality, he is about to drown from an overdose at the bottom of a pool. It is all as wonderful to see on screen as it is to hear Taron’s voice of an angel perfectly representing Elton note-for-note.

The music is astounding and since the movie I have had Spotify on Elton repeat – I am flabbergasted at just how many musical masterpieces he has released over the decades. ROCKETMAN gives us so many of his greatest hits, some awesome humour at a studio rejecting his greatest hits as rubbish and it electrifies, even steroid-boosts the songs by giving them a place and a meaning in the story. The story literally goes from song to song and they are part of the narrative and not in anyway close to being in a cheesy way, instead being exactly as you would imagine them to be in an Elton John true-story fantasy film.

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman
Taron Egerton

TARON IS A TIME TRAVELLER AND REALLY IS ELTON JOHN:

This is mostly ALL Elton – or should I say Taron but in all honesty Taron deserves this year’s Oscar, and next year’s Oscar for that performance. Seeing him speak on stage prior to the movie and then seeing him transform into Elton like a chameleon onscreen is one remarkable feat. I never saw Taron in the movie, he literally IS Elton – from the singing to the mannerisms to the emotional nuances, all perfection and up there as one of my favourite performances of all time. Before the movie Kernel Claire and I agreed that Taron would always be Eggsy – but after the film – “Elton is one of the best actors of all time and can be anything.” Gone is the Eggsy pin-up boy and hello to someone who can outperform Hugh Jackman in any musical thrown at him.

It was three of Taron’s song performances that melted my insides and made water leak out of my eyes. Those notes he was hitting were coming from a superior place – for an atheist it came pretty close to biblical in its brilliance for me.

THERE ARE OTHER ACTORS TOO:

Oh and yeah, there was other actors too haha. Jamie Bell can have the Oscar for his supporting role as Bernie Taupin. Elton’s lyric writer for so many of his amazing hits, and also his best friend since day dot. In decades and decades, dealing with the typhoon of Elton they have never once had an argument – this is mind blowing and shows true platonic love. Bell lights up the screen with a very relaxed performance.

Richard Madden’s John Reid is painted in the bleakest light possible. He is a manager that used and abused Elton. But we are only seeing this from Elton’s side in the story and Reid comes off quite two dimensional. I didn’t even recognise Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mum – she was aloof, loving, but against homosexuality and sadly it ruined their relationship.

Steve Graham and (one of my crushes) Charlie Rowe are marvellous as Elton’s first managers – I wanted more of Charlie and felt he was hard done by. And huge special mentions to Matthew Illesley and Kit Connor, two boys who take on big shoes to play Elton in his younger years – both gave exceptional performances.

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman
Taron Egerton

IN CONCLUSION:

Kernel Claire’s thoughts on ROCKETMAN when it finished “I have no notes, it was just perfection.” I could not talk I was so floored and sitting in a pool of emotional happy tears. I will be seeing ROCKETMAN again this week, have the soundtrack and all of Elton’s tunes on Spotify loop, and will own this on 4K Blu Ray – it is one of the best films I have ever seen and I cannot rave enough about it.

YOUR CRITIC:

Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.