Targon Egerton had been previously tethered to Sir Elton John twice; the first time in the animated film ‘SING’ where his character Johnny literally sings “I’m Still Standing”, the second time when Sir Elton John made a surprise role in Kingsman II: The Golden Circle. So, when Egerton was announced to play Sir Elton John in a biopic, I was both surprised and not surprised. I was also delighted to see Jamie Bell in another Elton John related film, having previously played Billy Elliot in the film of the same name, which John ended up turning into a stage musical. All paths entwined for these three to come together to create Rocketman.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher (who had previously worked with Taron Egerton in ‘Eddie the Eagle’) with Elton John himself as executive producer, Rocketman is no typical biopic. It is a musical fantasy biopic about Elton John’s breakthrough years with the narrative framed around John during an alcoholics anonymous meeting. John’s past is visited through musical flashbacks which are both equally uplifting and painfully heartbreaking. Taron Egerton is incredible as Elton John. While watching the film, I often forgot it was Egerton, with even the music and Egerton’s singing sounding like the musical legend himself. His portrayal of John, showcasing his struggles with addiction, sexuality, love and loneliness were impressive, hurt and honestly, all I wanted to do was give him a hug. I also was thoroughly impressed with the performances by Matthew Illesley and Kit Connor who played younger versions of Elton John when he still went by the name of ‘Reggie’.
Cast members Jamie Bell and Richard Madden were also flawless in their roles as lyricist Bernie Taupin and music manager John Reid. Madden was so great in his role to the point where I was loathing his character by the end of the film. Bell was also excellent playing both friend and co-songwriter to Elton, with his musical chops shining in “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.
The song numbers, despite sounding like Elton John were all performed by Taron Egerton, sometimes accompanied by his fellow cast members. Although “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” was the most impressive scene, all filmed in one shot, my favourite moment was when Egerton’s Elton wrote “Your Song” on the piano in his family’s home. Not only is Egerton vocally impressive, but the scene reminded me how incredible the song really is with its wonderful lyrics and heartwarming melody.
Visually, it is clear Rocketman plays the fantasy card well with people floating at Elton John’s American debut gig at the Troubadour venue, Elton John taking off like a rocket (literally) and all the choreographed song numbers. The costumes were also historically accurate, iconic and perfect. But I could not think of a better way for Elton John’s colourful life to be told. While the film is visually entertaining, Rocketman also has great depth with Elton John’s history exposed, showcasing the highs and lows that John experienced without holding anything back.
Rocketman is intense, beautiful and painful, but in a good way. Perhaps, it was because I have seen Elton John perform live several times and I am a fan, but I was moved to tears and my heart was aching long after I had left the cinema. I honestly loved Rocketman and I believe that not only is it one of the best films of 2019, but it is a wonderful gift that Elton John is giving the world prior to his retirement. I strongly recommend viewing this film as it is a fascinating look into part of Elton John’s life, and Taron Egerton is bloody brilliant.