I had a pair of sparkly, platform boots and big glasses in the 1970s. Looking back, I probably wore them with more stagger than swagger. I sang along to ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and wept at funerals when they played ‘Candle in the Wind’. Elton John is a memory touchstone of friends gone too early and others who’ll still leap to their feet and dance as if everyone is watching. Me and Elton, we go way back. Four concerts and six albums earned the hardest way doing chores and working after school. Me and Elton, best life in the ’70s, so I lined up early to see the new movie about Elton’s life, Rocketman.
It was… Surprising.
Upfront, I’ll say there are no spoilers here because we all know it’s based on his life. From the silvered stars on the long-sleeved T-shirt in 1970 (mine was blue, his was black), to his spangled jumpsuit and the piano glasses at Madison Square Garden, this movie was a time capsule of treasured lyrics and energy. Although dancing in a lunchtime theatre is not quite the thing, I can assure you there was plenty of dancing while seated going on.
Using songs from his huge catalogue, the story tells of Elton’s start with Bernie Taupin and his meteoric rise through the ’70s. Watching events unfold on screen feels like listening to a dear friend you haven’t seen for ages while telling you what’s been going on, scrolling through their photos for effect.
It’s both heart wrenching and uplifting. I went in thinking I would revisit my favourite concerts, fall in love all over again with his costumes, rejoice in those songs being played over the cinema sound system. Not too far in, I began to realise the story was something different, an insight into the true price Elton John paid for that thrilling stage presence and musical brilliance. The personal cost of fame is only obvious when it’s overpaid, and Rocketman takes us to where the final price is clear. Had I not been one of millions of fans happy that Elton later married his dear love, David Furnish, I would rush to the phone and ask what I could do to help.
Rocketman is part musical, part movie, part biopic. Unlike the recent award-winning Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman focuses more on the people who were part of Elton’s journey including his mother and father, and his beloved Gran. Even Renata, his blink-and-you’ll-miss-her bride is there. John Reid, his manager is less of a friend than he appeared back then, but Bernie Taupin is the protector we all thought he was.
Taron Egerton is great in the lead role as Elton and sings the songs himself, which was something Elton John insisted on. It works a treat and Egerton’s performance is up there with Rami Malek as Bohemian Rhapsody‘s Freddie Mercury.
In a Guardian interview about the movie, Elton John made it clear he wanted this story of his life to be a version he could show his boys when they were older. Even though he’s a rockstar who hasn’t led a PG-13 rated life, this is a movie you can show your teenaged grandkids, then dust off your original copy of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player.
‘Crocodile Rock’ sounds as good now as it ever did, especially for a bit of an impromptu dance in the lounge room.
Bravo, Rocketman. I’ll watch again.