‘Rocketman’ review: The glamorous and heartbreaking life of Elton John

With its highly imaginative direction and Taron Egerton’s magnetic performance, ‘Rocketman’ finishes on a high note.

It’s impossible not to think of Bohemian Rhapsody while watching Rocketman. Not to mention the fact that Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher himself assumed directing duties after Bryan Singer’s untimely exit while shooting Bohemian Rhapsody, both musical biopics feature flamboyant, gay pop-rock icons who reinvented themselves amidst adversity.

Rocketman, however, has a surefire edge over the other as Taron Egerton here does his own singing. We first heard him spectacularly perform an Elton John classic in Dreamworks’ Sing, and that credential alone suggests that he might have the vocal chops to do the rest of his jukebox. And he does not disappoint. Egerton may not exactly look or sound like Elton, but he channels the superstar’s flair and vibe with such authenticity that goes beyond an impersonation. Donned with signature over-the-top costumes, he successfully puts on a fearless and electrifying show. If Rami Malek can win an Academy Award for his work in Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s only righteous to start the Oscar hype as early as now for Taron Egerton.

“…how wonderful life is when you’re in the world.”
Taron Egerton as Elton John performs ‘Your Song.’

Both movies pretty much follow a standard template for musical biopics – a calculated yet effective retelling of the rise, the fall and the rebirth of an icon, accompanied by a wheelhouse of greatest hits. In Rocketman, piano prodigy Reginald Kenneth Dwight (Elton’s birth name) meets an aspiring lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and together, they produce a number of hits that skyrockets Elton’s hollywood career to superstardom. The costs of fame soon catches up and he falls into an abyss of depression and various addictions – shopping, alcohol, painkillers and even sex. Whereas Bohemian Rhapsody is on a disadvantage for being confined to a PG-13 setting, Rocketman greatly benefits from its R-rating as it avoids sugarcoating the edgy chapters in Elton’s extravagant and promiscuous lifestyle.

But what makes Rocketman truly soar is Fletcher’s assured and adventurous direction that deftly weaves fantasy elements into Elton’s trajectory. Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, the film disregards the chronological release of his songs and goes for a full-blown musical: the characters break out in songs and dances whenever the narrative calls for it. Given the eccentric nature of its protagonist, it’s quite easy to suspend disbelief and allow the film to take us to wherever it wants to go.

Jamie Bell (Bernie Taupin) and Taron Egerton bring warmth and sincerity to their friendship in ‘Rocketman.’

Musical scorer Matthew Margeson brings new arrangements to some of Elton’s songs and in doing so, the film produces multiple music genres that bear wide range of emotions. An energetic “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” marks Elton’s rebellious transition from childhood to young adult. The “Crocodile Rock” performance – where gravity cease to exist for a moment and the crowd starts floating – represents an insurmountable joy during Elton’s music career. “Bennie and the Jets” is played with an increasingly aggressive tempo to portray his psychedelic descent to rock bottom. The highly imaginative sequence of “Rocketman” is presented as an accompaniment to Elton’s suicide attempt and desire to leave the spotlight.

The film also shines with its slow ballads like the iconic “Tiny Dancer” being reinterpreted as a song about longing and unrequited love; an intimate “Your Song” that brings earnestness to the film’s core friendship; and an emotional duet of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” that reflects Elton and Bernie’s anger and disappointment at each other. It’s an epic celebration of the superstar’s enduring legacy and Elton’s spirit is very much alive throughout.

A rising star. Elton John performs “The Crocodile” in Troubadour, London.

At times, Rocketman feels like a Broadway production, where its pompous musical numbers occasionally outweigh the introspective drama involved. But thankfully, Fletcher takes us back to a third act where film’s cliché narrative setup – a frustrated Elton recounts his life during a therapy session – finally pays off as he confronts his inner demons. It’s in this moment when the pieces fall together and we understand the complexities of the character. Here is a son who poses a peculiar persona in a subconscious attempt to gain the affections of his uncaring father (Steven Mackintosh) and promiscuous mother (Bryce Dallas Howard). A performer who took risks in the music industry because his dashing yet devious manager/lover (Richard Madden) urges him to leave a mark in the world. A gay man whose told to be choosing a life of loneliness because of his decision to embrace his sexuality. A star who succumbs to self-destruction after failing to earn the validation of the people who mattered to him. And finally, a flawed human who decides to turn his life around with the help of his loyal best friend.

Livin’ the high life? Taron Egerton, Bryce Dallas Howard (Sheila) and Richard Madden (John Reid) in ‘Rocketman.’

With all the entertainment that Rocketman offers in its great performances and splendid production design, there lies an incredibly relatable tale of unconditional friendship, atonement, freedom and self-actualization. It’s only fitting that the film ends with the song “I’m Still Standing” to cap off Elton John’s moment of redemption. This can be your song too, and you can tell everybody.

4.5 out of 5 stars
Directed by Dexter Fletcher, ‘Rocketman’ stars Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Stephen Graham, Gemma Jones, Jason Pennycooke, Kit Connor, Matthew Illesley, Charlie Rowe, Steven Mackintosh, and Tom Bennett. 121 minutes. R-13.

Jamie Bell plays Elton John’s best friend in ‘Rocketman’

The songwriting team of Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin is one of the most enduring, successful and beloved creative partnerships in music history.  This unique relationship is celebrated in Paramount Pictures’ critically acclaimed musical, Rocketman.  British actor Jamie Bell plays Bernie Taupin opposite Taron Egerton’s Elton John.

“What they have between them is kind of a beautiful, harmonious marriage, lightning in a bottle,” explains Bell. “In the film we see them meet, and they’re kind of two loners, who find each other and form a friendship that lasts a lifetime.”

And to think, it was a friendship that very nearly never happened in the first place. As Rocketman  documents, the meeting between the two men who have dominated the music charts for six decades happened entirely by chance.

“Bernie was only 17 or 18 when he met Elton,” says Bell of the moment that would change the course of music history forever. “Bernie had become a bit of a juvenile delinquent and ended up becoming a chicken farmer and saw no way out. He felt trapped. He saw this music advertisement and replied to it with something like, ‘I’m a poet and have some lyrics, if you are interested.’ There is even some lore that he didn’t send the letter; he might have put it in the bin and his mum picked it out of the bin and mailed it, or he left it on the mantle and she mailed it, something like that. But the bigger idea is that there was this good fortune for both Bernie and for Elton of quite randomly finding someone that understands you, who gets you.”

That understanding is not just what has kept the pair together, but what has kept one of them alive. “Bernie has always been this rock to Elton, because he was someone who always knew who he was,” says Bell. “Whereas Elton was someone who was really trying to grab onto something, some identity or person or persona, or some love or career or drugs or whatever. Bernie represented this steadfastness. ‘I know who I am and, I am your friend.’”

To play the lyricist, Bell began by telephoning the real Taupin, to introduce himself. Taupin invited him over to his house for dinner. “It’s the right thing to do when you are playing someone (real), to make contact and say, ‘This is what I intend to do.’ I drove up to see him in Santa Barbara. He was very generous with his time. Back then, in reality, they were writing number one album after number one album – I think they had three in a row, which had never been done before, was never even heard of in their time. Bernie had his pressures and his demons too, but I think that knowing who you are inside makes it easier to deal with. Bernie would say that Elton was his best friend, the loveliest guy in the world, but could also be the devil incarnate at times.”

That intimate understanding of their relationship served Bell well throughout the course of making a movie that saw him stretch himself more than ever before. In a performance that, just like Egerton, sees him not just act but sing too, it’s Bell who performs ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ – a song he recorded at Abbey Road – for a scene that captures a moment in which the creative partnership came very close to ending.

“The amount of inner turmoil Elton has had to live with throughout his life makes things incredibly challenging for him,” says Bell. “So, to have someone like Bernie, who’s just present and consistent, is everything. The way that Elton talks about Bernie is so loving. The bond is very profound. It’s well documented that Elton once kind of made a fleeting pass at Bernie, and Bernie was like, ‘I love you, but that’s not going to happen.’ What I love about Bernie is that Bernie doesn’t judge. He accepts Elton for who he is. And even when Elton gets bigger and bigger, with the costumes and all that, he tells him that he doesn’t have to. He really believes in Elton’s ability. And when Elton sings at that piano, he gives people all this joy, and Bernie gets that. In the film, Bernie is always trying to course correct Elton back to the simple thing. That’s why he has always been so important.”

In Philippine cinemas June 19, Rocketman is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures. #RocketmanMovie  

About “Rocketman”

Paramount Pictures’ Rocketman is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, the film follows the fantastical journey of  transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John.

This inspirational story – set to Elton John’s most beloved songs and performed by star Taron Egerton – tells the universally relatable story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture. Rocketman also stars Jamie Bell as Elton’s longtime lyricist and writing partner Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as Elton’s first manager, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother Sheila Farebrother.

Taron Egerton transforms into Elton John in ‘Rocketman’

Where do you even begin when you’re enlisted to play Elton John, one of the most famous people on the planet? Not just that, but one who the planet itself already has an acutely ingrained idea of? How, in other words, do you find the real man underneath all those spectacles, sequins, tantrums and tiaras?

“That was a question I absolutely asked myself,” says Taron Egerton, the actor tasked to portray the music superstar in Paramount Pictures’ Rocketman. “So, in the end, I just asked him.”

“There was nothing off limits,” says Elton John of the process the pair went through to bring his story to life on the big screen. “That’s part of sobriety and learning to be open. There’s nothing you can’t talk about and communication is everything. I knew that if Taron was going to play me, he had to know everything. And he was so thirsty for knowledge. We just talked, like mates. It wasn’t like an investigative process. I think that’s why Taron has been so brilliant in this role, because a lovely friendship has developed because of this.”

For Egerton, these talks had a dual benefit. “One, there was nothing I felt I couldn’t ask him,” he says. “And, two, I felt very quickly that he wanted to get to know me and wanted to be a part of my life. So, the whole experience of playing him felt very personal, very quickly. And there are some similarities between us. What strikes me most is that he can simultaneously be this huge personality and command the room, but, at times, he is also the most vulnerable person I’ve ever met, and I feel that way about me. I feel that I’m someone who can be quite vulnerable and feel things very acutely. I think I share the same strength of character, but also the same emotional extremes and the same frailties.”

Put simply, Egerton doesn’t play Elton John in Rocketman; he transforms into him. “Taron’s great strength as an actor is that his vulnerability is something you can just sense; he doesn’t have to play it,” says director Dexter Fletcher. “And that’s essential when you’re playing someone who has this perceived veneer of toughness. What I mean by that is that Taron can play tough and difficult situations and characters and still maintain a sense of loneliness, a sense of needing somebody or something. When Taron does scenes like that, they don’t feel venal and self-centered or just plain nasty. It always feels like it comes from a place of need. And when you allow your audience to understand that this person, no matter what their behaviour is, is behaving this way because they need someone or something, it’s a massive bonus. Oh, and beyond that, he can sing like an angel…”

Egerton’s ability to sing Elton John songs has been proven before, his belting out of ‘I’m Still Standing’ in the animated smash, Sing, having not gone unnoticed on the global stage. But nothing will prepare people for his performances in Rocketman. Given free reign by John himself, to not just do an impersonation but to make these classic tracks his own, Egerton brings entirely new life to songs that have been beloved for generations, often recording his own versions of them before sending the vocals to John for his seal of approval. A seal that was happily and readily given.

Egerton was, says Fletcher, not just the right man but the only man for the job. “He has this incredible instrument, this voice, that he loves to use,” the director says. “But I can’t imagine anybody else who would have done such a physical transformation. It’s a very scary place to be for an actor, to step out onto the ledge, to face your fears and deliver. And Taron has done that beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.”

“It’s hard to put into words what this whole thing has meant to me,” Egerton says. “The experience of playing Elton has genuinely been nourishing to my life. Going hand in hand with that, there was just getting to know him. I feel so lucky. He gave me no advice how to play him and as a support, he has been very present, but he has not been someone who lent on me or guided me. He knows, because of what he’s been through in his life, that you have to give someone space to get the best out of them. He gave me real license and I am so grateful for that. I’m proud to say that through this, Elton John has become a friend.”

In Philippine cinemas June 19, Rocketman is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures. #RocketmanMovie

About “Rocketman”

Paramount Pictures’ Rocketman is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, the film follows the fantastical journey of  transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John.

This inspirational story – set to Elton John’s most beloved songs and performed by star Taron Egerton – tells the universally relatable story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture. Rocketman also stars Jamie Bell as Elton’s longtime lyricist and writing partner Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as Elton’s first manager, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother Sheila Farebrother.

Taron Egerton as Elton John, photographed by David Lachapelle for the ‘Rocketman’ poster

Photographer David LaChapelle has photographed Taron Egerton as Elton John for the first official poster for “Rocketman.”

Visionary David LaChapelle has created some of the most iconic imagery in Elton John’s career, and now turns his lens on the “Rocketman” film poster,  with Taron Egerton as Elton John.

This image captures the originality and cinematic scope of “Rocketman” as well as the spirit of the icon that is Elton John.

“Elton said I don’t think I have heard anyone sing my songs better than Taron,” Martin shared. “Taron is actually singing in the film and he’s so convincing.  His voice is incredible,” Fletcher said.

Paramount Pictures’ “Rocketman” is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. The film follows the fantastical journey of  transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John.

This inspirational story – set to Elton John’s most beloved songs and performed by star Taron Egerton – tells the universally relatable story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture. “Rocketman” also stars Jamie Bell as Elton’s longtime lyricist and writing partner Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as Elton’s first manager, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother Sheila Farebrother.

Opening on June 19 in Philippine cinemas, “Rocketman” will be distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

About David LaChapelle

David LaChapelle was born in the United States in 1963 and attended high school at North Carolina School of The Arts.

At age 15, he moved to New York City, was discovered by Andy Warhol and began working at Interview Magazine.  

LaChapelle’s vision and approach to image making quickly gained international interest as the artist began to expand the genre of photography.   By 1991, The New York Timespredicted, “LaChapelle is certain to influence the work of a new generation…in the same way that Mr. Avedon pioneered so much of what is familiar today.”

In the decades ahead, LaChapelle’s body of work established him as an icon of contemporary art. His portrait, stage,  music video and film works have become “iconic archetypes of America in the 21st Century”.   His photography has been Exhibited at theTel Aviv Museum of Art, Palazzo Reale (Milanese dx), MOCA Taipei, Monnaie de Paris, Victoria and Albert (London), Ara Modern Art (Seoul), and Casa dei Tre Oci (Venice) to name a few.

In 2018, LaChapelle created visuals for Travis Scott’s AstroWorld campaign as well as Elton John’s farewell tour.  In the spring, toured Europe and visited LA, New York and Miami celebrating the release of the most comprehensive book project of his career.   Lost & Found and Good News For Modern Man are the final volumes of a five-book anthology, the first being  LaChapelle Land (1996), then Hotel LaChapelle (1999) and Heaven to Hell(2006).

Presently, LaChapelle’s photography is exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery (London), Groninger Museum (The Netherlands), Pearl Lam Galleries (Singapore), Geuer X Geuer Art(Dusseldorf), Galerie Templon (Paris) and Stary Browar (Poland).

WATCH: New ‘Rocketman’ trailer teases cinematic spectacle

The only way to tell Elton John’s story is to live his fantasy.  Paramount Pictures has just launched the new trailer of “Rocketman” which gives fans a real taste of the cinematic spectacle that they can anticipate.

Check out the trailer below and watch “Rocketman” in Philippine cinemas June 19.

“Rocketman” is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

About “Rocketman”

Paramount Pictures’ “Rocketman” is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, the film follows the fantastical journey of  transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John.

This inspirational story – set to Elton John’s most beloved songs and performed by star Taron Egerton – tells the universally relatable story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture. “Rocketman” also stars Jamie Bell as Elton’s longtime lyricist and writing partner Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as Elton’s first manager, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother Sheila Farebrother.

Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton star in ‘Billionaire Boys Club’

Ambition. Greed. Murder. All of these are in the latest crime thriller movie, Billionaire Boys Club featuring Ansel Elgort (The Fault in our Stars, Baby Driver) and Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service).

Directed by James Cox (Wonderland, Straight A’s) and co-written by Captain Mauzner, the movie is about the real events of an exclusive investment-and-social club during the 1980s.

The Billionaire Boys Club was organized by sons of the wealthy families living in Southern California in 1983. They entice businessmen to invest on them by luring them with get-rich-quick schemes, and the money contributed by investors was spent on the lavish lifestyles of the club members. But in 1984, the club’s funds started to run short, and everything turned for the worse from there.

Golden Globe nominee, Ansel Elgort plays the role of Joe Hunt, the leader and the financial expert of the BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB and his love interest; Sydney is played by Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew); Taron Egerton plays as Dean Karny, a professional tennis player and one of the members of the club; and Academy Award Winner, Kevin Spacey is the mysterious Beverly Hills high roller Ron Levin.

From the luxurious cars, to the lavish homes, to the wild parties, up to the deadly encounters, the powerful cast of BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB will show you what it takes and what’s at stake when you desire fame and social status.

Billionaire Boys Club opens in cinemas nationwide on July 18. Presented by VIVA International Pictures and MVP Entertainment.

WATCH: Trailer for sports comedy drama ‘Eddie the Eagle’

Eddie never gives up and likes to prove his detractors wrong. Sounds universally familiar? Just like the unbreakable focus and determination of the recently crowned Ms. Universe 2015, Philippines’ Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach comes an inspiring story based on true events in “Eddie The Eagle” starring Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton.

From the producers of the blockbuster action movie “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” the feel-good story of “Eddie The Eagle” is about Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Egerton), a courageous yet unlikely British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself – even as his family and the entire nation initially counted him out. Persistently trying to perfect his skill with the help of a rebellious and charismatic coach, portrayed by Hugh Jackman, Eddie eventually wins the hearts of sports fans round the globe when he performed a historic feat at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

A loveable underdog with a never-say-die attitude will rise in “Eddie The Eagle” when it opens in cinemas this April 2016. From 20th Century Fox, check out “Eddie The Eagle” trailers here: