Rocketman - Brilliant, stunning and moving
It was with some trepidation that I attended a local showing of the recently released movie – Rocketman. Elton John is not in my top five performers/singers. Yet, there are many of his songs that I find quite brilliant so I thought it worth a try.
In fact in my mind he wrote the music to and sang, one of the great ballads of the 1970’s and possibly in the decades that followed. But more on that later.
The movie stars Taron Egerton as Elton John. Interestingly Egerton was born almost 20 years after Elton’s first semi-successful single, “Border Song“, which peaked at 92 in 1970 was released.
While Taron stars as Elton, two other actors who contribute as Reggie Dwyer before he became Elton.
Mathew Illesley plays the young Reggie and Kit Connor the older Reggie and both do justice to the parts they play.
My great concern was, how Taron was going to handle singing the songs and doing it with the same passion and sound of the real Elton John.
OK! i don’t think his voice is as powerful as Elton’s but – he can sing! It didn’t take very long for me to just accept that he was playing and singing as “Elton John”.
Talking of the name Elton John, according to the movie Reginald Kenneth Dwight was told he had to move away from Reggie to progress his career. He had to move away from a life that really was quite a misery, to live the life he desired. To do so he needed a new name.
Elton came from the name one of his early group members, a name he liked. However, when confronted in the early stages of his career and asked for his full name, he hesitated, unsure. Then he saw a picture of the Beatles on the wall of a music executives wall.
It was at that moment, according to the movie, when John Lennons face lights up in the picture and, Elton John was born.
The film is an interesting semi-biography of “Elton” framed in a series of scenes. it covers Reggie’s (Elton’s) early years cross referenced with his life, as his career progresses and blossoms.
The film starts and finishes with him in rehab and cutting back and forth through the stages of his life as he tells his tale to those who are in rehab along with him.
Personally I liked the way Director Dexter Fletcher unravelled Elton’s life and used a combination of his life’s story carefully referenced with pieces of Elton’s music.
I knew Elton and Bernie Taupin must have had a good relationship, but the film teaches us a lot about just how close and brilliant that connection was.
It is no longer acceptable to talk about “Elton’s music” without thinking or speaking of Bernie – who wrote almost all his memorable hits and near hits.
Bernie Taupin is played by Jamie Bell who is well known for his parts in the films King Kong (2005), Jumper (2008), The Adventures of Tintin (2011), Snowpiercer (2013), Fantastic Four (2015) and now – Rocketman.
I loved his part and it showed why the two never had an argument in the times together.
Really, the movie is about two things.
- The life of Elton:
a) His unhappy childhood created by a father who didn’t know how to love, and his mother who only barely knew how to love him. It’s his grandmother who lived with the family, that provided the best love and support in what was a loveless life.
b) Then there was his sexuality. This both defined him and created terrible tensions that really were not resolved until many years after “Elton John”, the performer, was born
2. His music:
The relationship with Bernie was music magic.
Circumstances bought together a brilliant and talented songwriter with a man who really was a musical child prodigy. The words, the music and the passion formed the persona of a man who quite possibly became one of the great entertainers of the 20th century.
The film explores as much of these interplay’s as possible. Now while we can intellectually seperate out these elements, the movie shows that they were far more complex and intertwining.
The music is brilliant – and that is what we expect. It reminded me so much of the first Elton John track I ever heard – Your song. Sung by Elton before the “showman persona” had solidified, it really is a magnificent ballad.
Your song - as sung by Taron Egerton in the movie
There are few dull moments in the film largely due to two things. One is the emotion generated as we watch “Elton” progress in his career and putting on a 100% showman’s face to audiences, while fighting his demons.
Those demons were both created in his past and, by those who purported to be helping him in his present.
His gradual sinking into a world of drugs and alcohol is a story that many top artists have faced, but his is a story of successfully overcoming this and importantly, other trials.
The other is, the music. It is quite amazing how the music chosen during the film not only represented major moments in his life as his career grew, but was also used to demonstrate the trauma of his past.
The Bitch is back
There will always be people who find fault in a musical bio of any artists life, but, put any concerns aside and go and see this film.
It really provides us with an insight into both Reggie Dwyer and Elton John, that a book could not have done as well.
I for one, have re-found my love for his music and I have a greater respect for what he went through and how he handled pressures of his personal life and being the star he is.
The official promo-clip
Reviewed by Toorak Times Senior Editor – Rob Greaves