Rocketman (Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard) – Elton John has been sober for 28 years.  But for the great bulk of his career, he was an alcoholic, pill addicted jerk.  Or at least that is what he tells us in Rocketman, a mostly accurate biopic starring his incredible body of music.

Rocketman tells all about Reginald Dwight’s childhood as recounted by the elder Elton Hercules John from his rehab facility in the early 1990s.  Reg was a prodigy growing up in a largely loveless home. He loved music of all types from Dizzy Gillespie to country & western.  His talent got him into the London music academy.  But his incredible facility for turning Bernie Taupin’s lyrics into song made him an international superstar.

The shy Dwight became John when he hit the stage, first in clubs in London but more importantly when he landed in LA to play the Troubador in 1970.  Although his first hit was the beautiful ballad, Your Song, he was all the buzz in the emerging music capital of the U.S. (in the ‘60s, the music world was centered in New York and London). His calling card soon became his gaudy, totally outlandish costumes even as his music screamed mainstream pop.

Rocketman is a jukebox musical with an honest retelling of his brilliance, his devolution into addiction, his sexual awakening, and his complicated relationships.  Despite taking some license with how he chose his stage name (it was not from looking at a picture of John Lennon) and the timing and sequencing of his songs (Crocodile Rock wasn’t written yet, let alone performed, at the Troubadour) ( f01/rocketman-fact-checking-the-elton-john-biopic-rolling-stone/), the movie is exceptional.

Its star, Taron Egerton, who made a splash in the Kingsmen films, was an inspired choice to play John.  He has the look, the singing chops, and the acting range to portray the enigmatic John.

Elton John’s fans, about a billion of us, won’t find much new here (I saw him for the first time in 1974).  But we may be surprised by the depths to which he tumbled during the many years we admired him and attended his raucous concerts.  The fact that he describes himself as a jerk (not exactly the word he used) starting in 1975 until his stint in rehab in the early ‘90s doesn’t diminish his musical legacy but it sharply contrasts with the humanitarian, devoted husband, and doting father he has become in his later years.  As the John/Taupin song, Someone Changed My Life Tonight, aptly expresses: “Thank God my (his) music’s still alive.”

If you love Elton’s music, head to the theater right away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *