As my wife and I left the movie screening for “Rocketman”we got into our car and immediately fired up Spotify and put it on Elton John’s music channel. Though we had just spent the last two hours fully immersed in Elton’s music, we couldn’t help but blast “Your Song” and “Tiny Dancer.” It was like hearing the tracks for the first time.
That’s the feeling you get when you watch an amazing rock-bio-pic. We often forget how incredible these artists are while they are with us and don’t get to truly appreciate their full story until it’s too late. Lucky for us, we get to celebrate Sir Elton’s legacy while he is still here and as fabulous as ever.
Director Dexter Fletcher (“Eddie and the Eagle”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”- the end of it, after Bryan Singer was fired) took the traditional bio-pic format and gave it a truly artistic new vision. The cinematography and musical sequences were spectacular and gave the film an almost fantasyfeeling, much like Elton’s costumes. While much of the film follows the usual precursor of rock-stardom; youthful struggle, natural god-given talent, a lucky break, becoming a beloved musical god, struggles with fame, money, drugs, women, men, some kind of redemption – it was based on the life of Elton John so it felt only right to add a certain level of flamboyance to the movie. And, boy was it flamboyant. Oh and did I mention it was part musical too?
The movie starts with a fully grown Elton (Taron Egerton of “Kingsman”) frantically running down a hall, fully dressed in a head to toe rhinestone orange jumpsuit with full headdress and sunglasses (of course) to end up in what looks like an AA meeting. He divulges his addiction to alcohol, cocaine, sex and bulimia. That’s when the scene quickly cuts to his childhood to bring sense to what we just witnessed.
In his early years Elton (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight) lived in a working-class neighborhood in Pinner, UK. His mother, an overly snarky housewife who’s constant nagging creates a demoralizing environment that both Elton and his father seem to fall victim. With literally no affection shown by Elton’s mother or father, Elton quickly seeks out pleasure from playing the piano, urged on by the only supporting person in his life, his grandmother.
Elton’s god-given ability to play music immediately after he hears it, lands him scholarships, and ultimately a spot in a traveling band that plays back up for a multitude of American pop-stars. While on the road, Elton not only learns about the business of rock-and-roll from his bandmates, but also that he may be gay.
Soon thereafter Elton meets his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell of “Jumper” and“Fantastic Four”)who has a natural gift for penning lyrics, but is missing the music to accompany them. He gives Elton a stack of lyrics and watches as Elton quickly melds the lyrics with melodies which become the foundation for nearly all of Elton’s hits.
The duo quickly start hashing out hit after hit and before you know it, they are on their way to America to conquer the rock-and-roll scene. Elton quickly finds himself being sucked into a life of drugs, abusive relationships and bad business dealings. Underneath all of the turmoil is a deep-seated longing to have the love and acceptance from his mother and father.
What Elton discovers from all of his trials and tribulations in becoming a rock star is that only he can truly discover who he is meant to be and nobody will truly make him happy until he can accept this within himself.
The old adage that “real life is crazier than fiction” definitely plays out in this movie. Elton lived a life that was bigger and more fantastic than many could possibly imagine. Fortunately for all of us, he made it out the other side with song after song – and for that he will be cherished by every listener and a contentment with himself after all these years.