31st May2019

‘Rocketman’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Taron Edgerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones, Steven Mackintosh, Tom Bennett, Charlie Rowe, Tate Donovan, Ophelia Lovibond, Celinde Schoenmaker, Stephen Graham, Sharon D. Clarke, Rachel Muldoon, Jimmy Vee | Written by Lee Hall | Directed by Dexter Fletcher

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Rocketman, directed by Dexter Fletcher, stars Taron Edgerton as Rock and Roll legend Elton John; and it’s safe to say Fletcher’s film has had a rather strange path to cinema screens.

A long history of development hell in casting the lead role, notably having Tom Hardy in the headlights for some time, eventually leading him to drop out and Edgerton to take over. Director Dexter Fletcher has also had a strange run-up to the finalisation of Rocketman. After being pulled into directing duties and overseeing the edit of the incredibly poor and unattractive Freddie Mercury Queen biopic, in part of the original and notorious director Bryan Singer being fired from directing duties due to a whole host of improper behaviour accusations, both on and off set. The release has been made even more complicated by the rating classification Rocketman has had to combat against in major territories – namely Australia – due to to the films hard-hitting themes of drug addiction while also including a major studio gay sex scene, of which are both handled with mature care.

Even after most of this traumatic up-hill hassle, Rocketman reveals itself to be an incredibly eccentric and entertaining biopic that really shows the gritty realness of its protagonist and lifestyle – warts and all. Edgerton is absolutely fabulous as the titular character. The physical embodiment as the film progresses is nothing short of mesmerising. The resemblance is uncanny, and Edgerton finds a brilliant balance of mimicking this absurdly charismatic character, while also making it his own. Specifically, in the latter is the fact that Edgerton does his own singing as Elton John. It’s a factor that might be a little too obtuse for some, but it adds an organic and raw element to proceedings. Considering that the last major biopic (mentioned above) leading actor won an Academy Award for lip-synching, it’s a refreshing inclusion.

Fletcher’s directing is one of the most intriguing aspects of a film that treads a thin line between a cinematic biopic and what you’d see on Lifetime. It’s clear there isn’t a sizeable budget here to work with, and to his credit, Fletcher finds a nice balance between the charismatic flair of Elton John’s world, via expressive set pieces, while working in close proximity of a tight budget. These set pieces are quite surprising in themselves. They work as a multi-purpose tool and their inclusion is what presumably saves this from the mundane fare.

Built not so much narratively as a drama, more so a musical, the aesthetic sets not only the tone and genre, but also a narrative device and a contextual tool to evoke a the darkly incoherent word we find the films main character in.

Rocketman is in cinemas from today, May 31st.

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