Rocketman Review – Amazing, Shocking, Real and Raw

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Rocketman, from Paramount Pictures, brings to the screen a fantastical biographical journey of Elton John as he finds himself early and the fated ordained meeting with Bernie Taupin, of one of the most prolific singer-songwriting teams in history.

 

Directed by Dexter Fletcher, Rocketman stars Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Steven Mackintosh, Stephen Graham, Richard Madden, Jason Pennycooke, Charlie Rowe, Gemma Jones, Matthew Illesley, Kit Connor, Tate Donovan and Rachel Muldoon,

Rocketman opens with Elton bursting through the doors of Parkland Rehab Center in a red/orange jumpsuit adorned with both angelic wings and demonic horns. Toward himself, he is a demon, poisoning, torturing, and tormenting as we see when he is asked what brings him to this place.


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To others, a world of people he is a god, a rock star, a legend and most the songs and music have punctuated moments of their lives. He keeps memories alive for billions of people, allowing for that three-minute retreat to a simpler time, or the first time, or just when the music moved your soul.

The demon/angel is in rehab, finally close to killing himself, again. This time, from somewhere, he goes with it and soon we are back in 1955 and we are meeting Reginald Kenneth Dwight, in Pinner, a northwest London suburb.

Here we meet his mum, Sheila, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, a passionate woman, who married Stanley, played by Steven Macintosh, a quiet, unaffectionate, father, who after the war was withdrawn and as we are told the bullets took the feeling out of him. He loved music, and had a record collection that even included Jazz and breakthrough modern music.

Young Reggie, played by Matthew Illesley and Kit Connor, was drawn to the music, and even when he rebuffed by his father, whom he adored, for touching the albums, he continued pursuing. One day he sat down at the piano. He played a note and then another, without lessons or music. What his mum, Sheila and Stanley didn't see, his grandma, Ivy, played by Gemma Jones, did.


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Soon his family hired a local piano teacher who explained he was talented enough to audition for the Royal Academy of Music. Not prepared with an audition piece, the instructor was playing a classic concerto when he entered. So, when asked what he will be presenting he played sight unseen, no music and no practice what she had just finished.

Music was his ticket out of Pinner. Rocketman hits on the key moments in his childhood when he played which led to his meeting with Dick James, played by Stephen Graham, and Ray Williams, played by Charlie Rowe. At this time he was still Reginald Dwight, and during a rushed meeting with Ray, he hands him a envelope from a pile of unopened submissions and by chance, fate, happenstance, kismet or whatever one attributes destiny to he opens it and it contains lyrics from Bernie Taupin, played by Jamie Bell.

One would say the rest is musical history, and from the front row, it is. From backstage the ride is much darker, shocking, raw and unfortunately real.

This is where we meet John Reid. Elton's first manager Dick James gets him a gig at the Troubadour, a small West Hollywood club, know for launching careers, owned by the flamboyant Doug Weston, played by Tate Donovan.

Needless to say, by the end of the concert, Elton and Bernie are suddenly stars with all its accouterments. The evening was so successful, the gig at the Troubadour catapulted them on the west coast and landed four more shows at the Troubadour. They ended the night at Mama Cass' house partying.


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John Reid, who related to Elton in many ways, also attended the show and realized what he was seeing was his future. And he was going to ride him to the ATM until he was dead or dried up. Even then, as we find out he would still collect his 20%.

The film wouldn't be real without reveling Elton's sexual orientation and his first gay lover, John Reid, who was everything to him. And it is was obvious why, he was Hollywood, the future, well-dressed, well-accessorized, he had success, and with enough effort he could have seduced anyone. Only it wasn't love, it was abuse.

We don't return to the Parkland rehab session for a while, and with each return his costume is slowly coming off, first the horns, then the wings and soon, near the end of the film, he is sans make-up, accessories, facades, and we see and meet Elton, who finally embraces himself, his inner child and everyone. He handles the steps of recovery with as much dedication as he spent trying to destroy and hide himself.


 

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There are so many moments in the film, that speak to the star maker machine, and for a talent like Elton, that equated to hundreds of millions for music companies. His life belonged to the recording companies. He was a commodity and as such he was held captive.

In an exchange between Bernie and Elton, Bernie says, "I see the campaign to kill yourself is going well." That sums up decades of Elton's days when he was at the precipice of his touring career.

The first sexual encounter between Elton and John was shocking and I thought it was a bit to graphic. My feeling, after, seeing the film was more like Phoebe's on the hit 1990's sitcom, "Friends," when she saw Chandler and Monica, "My eyes, my eyes" she said with shock. So that is what it is. And for Elton, the relationship was toxic, and nearly killed him.

Rocketman is more than amazing. To witness a prodigy, changes my opinion, from simple appreciation to stunned appreciation.

The film is a wild, fantastical ride from northwest London to the highest heights. The final scenes from Parkland rehab, we see someone who had made peace.

Rocketman opens May 31, 2019. See it. It is a toe tapping, sing along, heartbreaking, and genuine.

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