By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
"And I think it's gonna be a long, long, time
'Til touchdown brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home
Ah, no no no...
I'm a rocket man
Burnin' out his fuse
Up here alone."
“Rocket Man (I Think It's Gonna Be A Long Time)”—Elton John, 1972.
After Rami Malek’s Oscar winning, performance as Freddie Mercury in last year’s biopic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Taron Egerton
couldn’t afford to just be good portraying Elton John
in the new movie, “Rocketman.”
He had to be exceptional. And boy is he ever.
Egerton, goes all in. He doesn’t mimic the legendary singer, but rather captures him in all his extravagant, flamboyant, musical glory. Oh, and the singing. That’s all Egerton too.
There’s no lip-synching here. Egerton delivers “Honky Cat,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “Rocketman” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Your Song,” Tiny Dancer,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and “Crocodile Rock” among others, with fierce passion and conviction.
We learn early in “Rocketman” why Elton John discarded his birth name Reginald Kenneth Dwight, immersed himself in music at an early age, spent most of his life fighting his demons and after therapy, ultimately accept himself.
It’s not always a pretty picture, but that’s what makes “Rocketman” so compelling. Director Dexter Fletcher (“Eddie the Eagle” and “Terminal”)--who jumped aboard “Bohemian Rhapsody” after film producer Bryan Singer was fired--isn’t afraid to peel back the layers here and expose the bad and the ugly facets of the pop star’s life.
It begins in Pinner, Middlesex England. At five years old, all Reginald Dwight (played by Matthew Illesley)wanted was love and attention from his mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard (“A Dog’s Way Home”) and cold-hearted/cruel father, Stanley (Steven Mackintosh, TV’s “Wanderlust”). He did have a loving grandmother (Gemma Jones, TV’s “Gentleman Jack”) who seemed genuinely concerned for him and even saw his musical genius.
Still, his parents divorced, and their unhappiness left a psychosocial impact on Reginald/Elton as a teen and well into adulthood. Elton managed to find solace in music and later a strong friendship with lyricist Bernie Taupin--(an outstanding Jamie Bell, “Skin” and “Fantastic Four”)—who would become his life-long music longwriter/collaborator.
“Rocketman” zips and zags with frenetic, dazzling musical numbers that are complemented by gut-wrenching, moments involving Elton and his manager John Reid (Richard Madden, “Game of Thrones”), record publisher/mogul Dick James (Stephen Graham, TV’s “Line of Duty”), a sham and shameful marriage to Renate Blauel (Celinde Schoenmaker), a performance with an American soul band and a drug/alcohol fueled suicide attempt at a pool party.
There’s a lot to “Rocketman” and at times it does feel a bit disjointed, but it comes together and really works well. One of my favorite scenes--among many--is when Elton John makes his American debut at the Troubadour in West Hollywood and blows the crowd away while kind of floating above his piano singing “Crocodile Rock.”
While the music, is a huge aspect of “Rocketman,” so are the outlandish clothes that the singer struts around in. The bedazzled, furry, vibrant outfits are from costume designer Julian Day.
I was concerned if Egerton could pull off playing such an iconic figure like Elton John. The actor has had success in the “Kingsman” movies and was terrific in the sports biopic, “Eddie the Eagle,” but “Robin Hood” was a box office flop.
However, Egerton’s star turn in “Rocketman” is so weird and wonderful it should catapult his career and stir the Awards Season conversation. It's not too early.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Check Out This Trailer For "ROCKETMAN"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of The Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.