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Rocketman

Rocketman

By Joanna Langfield

Now this is my idea of a rock star biography. Flamboyant and fun, featuring dramatically aligned hit musical numbers, this toe-tapper never forgets the complicated soul of its you-thought-you-knew-him subject.

Elton John, emblazoned in a signature spangled bold as a bird costume, makes quite the entrance. Bursting through a set of doors, he takes a deep breath and begins to walk the corridor. Something’s not quite right. Is he nervous to take the stage? Is he going somewhere else? Soon, we find him busting into a group therapy session where, tentatively, he begins a halting look back at the not so sunny yellow brick road that led him here. Through a series of flashbacks, see young boy discover his musical genius, try to please his impossible to please parents, acknowledge his sexuality, and, eventually become the superstar whose music is as legendary as his eye-popping stagecraft.

In his televised interviews, I used to find John surprisingly guarded and a touch difficult. Here, in Lee Hall’s screenplay, we find out why. Told to leave the persona he was born with behind, Reggie blossoms into the far more dazzling Elton. But Reggie’s insecurity and broken heart are never far from the new, glossy surface. And, as impressive as Taron Edgerton’s terrific singing and dancing is (and it is), what gives this movie depth is his understanding of that. With a glance, he shows the vulnerability that fueled the artistry, depression and pain.

But, not to worry. Even if the early scenes reminded me of John and Hall’s earlier collaboration, the far more sober Billy Elliot, much of the two hours fly by on a series of Broadway-like takes on songs that have become the soundtrack of many of our lives. Director Dexter Fletcher is allowed far more to work with here than he was, for various reasons, with Bohemian Rhapsody and, along with a super cast, he tells a story of pain, goofy glee and, ultimately, triumph. Plus, its got a beat you can dance to.

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