Photo Credit / Paramount Pictures
Film Distribution / Paramount Pictures
Runtime 121 minutes.
There’s a lot of music in this, a lot of drugs, and a lot of gay sex. It tells that a young, fearful piano wunderkind, Reginald Dwight (Matthew Illesley, very young; Kit Conner, older) is unloved and uncared for by his frigidly cold parents, Sheila Farebrother (Bryce Dallas Howard), and Stanley Dwight (Steven Macintosh). Then almost like a butterfly turning into a caterpillar, Reggie metamorphoses into the monster drug addict, alcoholic rock and roll superstar, Elton John (Taron Egerton).
Directed by Dexter Fletcher from a screenplay by Lee Hall, this is not just “warts and all,” it’s almost all warts, and that’s my main criticism. The entire movie shows John as a whining, despicable, ungovernable prima donna begging for love and throwing fits when he doesn’t get it. What’s disappointing is that a crawl at the conclusion of the film says that John has been alcohol and drug free for 28 years! Why not show some of that? Why not devote just a little time showing him as a recovered druggie/alcoholic who overcomes bad things and continues to lead a rewarding life instead of just adding it as an afterthought? As to that, there’s no Princess Di.
It does show his breakout performance at The Troubadour on the Sunset Strip in 1970, and other performances after he became a star. Egerton gives a remarkable performance and will undoubtedly be up for an Oscar®, and deservedly so. He does all the singing himself. It’s not as if John’s voice is something iconic like the voices of Johnny Cash or Al Jolson, so using Egerton’s voice wasn’t a bad idea. It is filled with the music John created with his lyricist, Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), and if you are a fan of that, you will be rewarded.
Compared with the two musicals last year, A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody, this film is a disappointment. The main criticism of Bohemian Rhapsody by many was that it whitewashed a story that was darker than what was presented onscreen. To give Rocketman credit, it does not pull its punches.