” Taron Egerton delivers an electrifying performance as Elton John in “Eddie the Eagle” director Dexter Fletcher’s “Rocketman” (*** OUT OF ****), a ‘warts and all’ musical biography about the British singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer who has sold reportedly as many as 250 to 300 million records since his debut on the charts in 1970 with “Your Song.”  Mind you, Elton’s debut studio album hit the racks in 1969, but it wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1975.

Occasionally inspired, often conventionally straightforward, but hopelessly costumed, this cinematic greatest hits revue epitomizes the proverb ‘money cannot buy happiness.’  This hoary cliché finds refreshing relevance with the eponymous musician’s own confession early on in writer Lee Hall’s screenplay.  Elton boasts that he has done everything, but he has never experienced true love.

Now, if you’re wondering what he felt about this off-delayed, somewhat contrived jukebox musical fantasy, it should come as no surprise that the five-time Grammy winning piano prodigy adores it.  Indeed, Elton produced this two-hour plus extravaganza, with his husband, Canadian filmmaker David Furnish.

The Hollywood Reporter magazine has singled out Elton’s biopic “as first major studio film to depict gay male sex.” Essentially, however, most of this flagrant affections amount to little more than kissing and groping. Sadly, despite the musician’s participation behind the camera, “Rocketman” has yet to achieve the lunar trajectory of Queen’s comparatively prudish PG-13 release “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018), with its phenomenal $900 million plus box office haul.

Reportedly, audiences criticized “Bohemian Rhapsody” for sterilizing Freddy Mercury’s love life. After watching this rise and fall and then phoenix-like rebirth of the British superstar’s life, it seems miraculous that Elton has emerged from the pandemonium of his life and appears now to be at peace at age 72.  His second autobiography due out October 15th will undoubtedly prove more illuminating about his life.

Watching “Rocketman” is like watching Elton’s greatest hits.  The first time we see the superstar, he storms into a twelve-step AA meeting, presumably fresh from a concert, decked out as he is like the supernatural monster “Hellboy” of the Dark Horse Comics.  Detaching Velcro horns from his headpiece, Elton collapses into a chair and regales them with his woes.

“Rocketman” chronicles Elton’s rollercoaster life, including his bouts with his eating disorders, shopping sprees, and alcohol-fueled orgies energized with prescription meds as well as illegal substances. At one point, as he is topping the charts, Elton realizes he must hush up his secret life as a homosexual.  When he outs himself on a pay phone to his serenely aloof mother, Shelia (Bryce Dallas Howard of “Jurassic World”), she smirks: “Oh, for God’s sake, I knew that. I’ve known for years.”

Like Queen’s front man Freddie Mercury, Elton survives a harrowing same sex encounter with a villainous manager, John Reid (Richard Madden of Disney’s live-action “Cinderella”), who warns Elton–whether the latter lives or dies—that he will still reap his 20 percent of the profits. Perhaps a message lurks within for prospective rockers about confusing love with sex.  Incidentally, a different actor played the same promoter in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Naturally, “Rocketman” eavesdrops on Elton’s early years in flashback when he was shy Reginald Kenneth Dwight and discovered an affinity for the piano at age four.  By age eleven, he had landed a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. Clearly, Elton suffered at the whims of his parents who withheld their love and affection.  No, they didn’t abuse him physically, but the emotional toll was just as devastating to the youngster.

The first genuine friendship that he forged turned out to be with his long-time musical collaborator but heterosexual male, Bernie Taupin ( Jamie Bell of “Defiance”), who penned some of Elton’s best lyrics.  As Taupin later told Harper’s Bazaar magazine, “We’re outsiders looking for a way in, and I’m willing to play along, Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote. We agree to give it a shot…let’s go tilt some windmills. There’s nervous energy in the air, a feeling of possibility.” Apart from a brief hiatus between 1977 to 1979, Elton and Taupin spent more than 30 years together writing songs.  Elton boasts that they had only one argument during all those years!

Unlike most celebrities who shun the spotlight when it threatens to become too revealing, Elton John told director Dexter Fletcher that he wanted to see as much ‘honesty’ as possible about his trials and tribulations.

At no time did the rock star admonish Fletcher and Hall about unsavory episodes in his life.  Predictably, the sexual improprieties have been held to a minimum, but Elton’s faithful heterosexual fans have probably resigned themselves to this revelation in a career that has been splashed across the tabloids for almost fifty years. The inevitable turning point in any rock star’s life occurs when suicide rears its ugly head in their thoughts.

One of “Rocketman’s” insightful scenes takes place during such an instance.  During a pool-party orgy with scores of oblivious spectators carrying on without a clue, a bleakly depressed Elton plunges headlong into the surreal blue depths and sinks like a rock.  At the bottom of his pool, he finds young Reginald Kenneth Dwight playing his tiny piano.  Mind-blowing accurately describes this unforgettable scene.

“Rocketman” doesn’t cover everything in Elton’s life.  Ostensibly, the last of his greatest hits releases “I’m Still Standing” marks not only the conclusion of the film but also the end of his life over ‘troubled waters’ as he comes to grips with his homosexuality, divorces his female wife of two years, Renate (newcomer Celinde Schoenmaker), and emerges from rehab with a new lease on life.

Of course, purists will argue that Fletcher and company have tampered with the chronology of Elton’s life, but like most filmmakers, they have struggled to squeeze in everything, but with a sense of perspective that a day-to-day biopic could never accommodate.  Taron Egerton’s vocal performance as well as his bizarre wardrobe changes closely imitate Elton. Altogether, “Rocketman” qualifies as a blast! For more great movie reviews check out this link: https://theplanetweekly.com/category/entertainment/

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