Soaring to Musical Heights
Paramount Pictures has a smash hit on its hands with director Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman, the story of rock n’ roll singing idol Elton John. The film is superb in its telling of John’s rise to superstardom while battling various addictions and dealing with a broken heart stemming from his childhood abuse.
Director Fletcher was behind the mega hit Bohemian Rhapsody, a movie about Freddy Mercury and the band Queen. That film won an Oscar for star Rami Malek. Fletcher finished the last three weeks of filming after taking over when original director Bryan Singer left the production. Fletcher knew his way around a musical and made the film into a world-wide hit. He is doing the same with Rocketman as it has all indications that Elton John fans will flock to see this fantasy musical about the singer’s life.
Elton John, born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in England, grew up in a loveless home and suffered as a boy for lack of affection. This rejection by his parents led to problems later in life. His mother Sheila, played enticingly by the beautiful Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of director Ron Howard), had dalliances with various men, despite being married to Stanley (actor Steven Mackintosh) a cold-hearted man who never hugged his son. He also never saw Elton perform in a concert! And we wonder why Elton got screwed up.
Young Taron Egerton (29) should get all the accolades this year for his brilliant performance as the emerging singer during the formative years. Just as Rami Malek captured Freddy Mercury so well in Bohemian Rhapsody last year, Egerton has the advantage this year for capturing an Oscar nomination because of his interpretation of the young, wild, funny, serious, manic, broken-hearted Elton. So far this year, no actor has delivered such a diverse performance.
Egerton sings in his own voice and manages to capture all the excitement of the real Elton John in the musical scenes. He has a good voice, performs in an exciting way, and manages to get one’s toes tapping to the beat of the famous songs. Many of the John-Bernie Taupin songs are re-created as colorful, eye-searing, sequined numbers that get the audience jumping to their feet in appreciation. The hits “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” “Saturday…,” “Your Song,”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and the title song “Rocketman” are given joyous, colorful renditions mixed with some of John’s more serious and subdued songs. Fletcher has created a seamless transition from a dramatic scene that melts into a musical number with ease. Nobody automatically breaks into song as in the old musicals.
Costume designer Julian Day earns kudos for his capturing of John’s wild and bizarre costumes that were worn on stage in the really concerts. Feathers and sequins are used liberally to set John apart from the other performers at the time. Color and dazzle are the order of the Day, to coin a pun. Brilliant work oozes from the creative mind of Mr. Day. He should be nominated for an Oscar for his designs.
Jamie Bell plays Bernie Taupin, John’s writing partner since they met in 1967. Bell is a consummate actor/performer and is happily remembered from his debut film as the dancing boy in Billy Elliot. Bell is less emotional than his pal and remains level-headed when John blows his top occasionally. Bell adds sanity to his role of the song-writing genius.
Rocketman caused a sensation at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in France. It received a well-deserved standing ovation for several minutes. Perhaps this movie will serve as an inspiration to bring back the musical film. If they all turn out as brilliant as this one, we should be in for a happy time at the movies.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “R” for language throughout, some drug use and sexual content.)