We took up most of the row in the cinema. Nine pals who remembered when rock was young, hoping for the biggest kick we ever got…Okay, I’ll stop now with the Bernie Taupin lyrics, except
Rocketman is a great ride. It’s a better ride than the current incarnation of Aladdin, now beating Rocketman at the box office, but don’t you dare come at me for going to see it: it has a magic carpet and 🎵 A Whole New World 🎵and that’s enough for me (and my young pals who joined me when I asked, Will you take your Auntie Anne to the movies?)
Rocketman begins with a full list of confessions. Elton John listing all of his addictions and we’re off, watching little Elton Sad Boy become big Elton Star Boy through a trippy set of brilliant musical sequences. At some point, the little Elton (known as Reggie then) and Big Elton meet one another in this musical mirage and little Sad Boy asks big Star Boy for a hug. Right there we are in the zeitgeist proper and nobody can quibble with therapy and all of its attendant hopeful outcomes. Nor can we fault the soft lens on a long friendship: Elton John’s celebrated partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin is the heart of the film— and the most intriguing. These two talents worked separately. How they collaborated is one of the film’s more accurate threads. The star gave his blessing to this film, signing on as executive producer, and his obvious pride in that rare showbiz jewel of a union shines brighter than anything else here. Except for the music. Oh yes, the music. We didn’t break into full out karaoke although tempted I was at points. This was our early tweendom’s soundtrack so B-B-Benny me back, baby.
Parts of the film feels utterly generic. We have seen these rock narratives before and know of their properties. What makes this one beat are dizzying music sequences with their own aesthetic ( and conveniently muddled timelines- songs are presented to fit the film, not the reality) and the guy who punches life into every one of them is Welsh actor Taron Egerton. Here he is showing off his pipes at a recent Aids Foundation auction.
The twenty-nine-year-old joins actor Jamie Bell, who is also a dancer (remember Billy Elliot?), and Richard Madden as a trio of stellar talent; reason enough to go. Madden is hot hot hot these days as
If you’re like me, you might wonder at the sudden end of the film. No spoilers but there’s a chunk of life history smushed at the conclusion of the film into a few photos and information graphics; all equal in the redemptive narrative possibility to the wild tale preceding it. This is a musician who has raised $450 million for AIDs research, after all. It’s a minor quibble but this fan wanted to see more of that real life second chapter’s potency. And for all the whiners dissing jukebox musicals, there is this: music as we know it will never be like this again. It will continue to morph and produce wondrous sounds as it has, but we are now in a time of ephemeral shapeshifting: never has it been harder for artists to reach this kind of international success. The best moment in this film is one of gorgeous levitation. I won’t spoil it for you but it is this moment that captures the entire giddiness of hearing magic. I dare you not to smile. Or cry. Eventually, this kind of film will die out, and this well-trodden genre, but the music? It lingers on and we will all sing until we have lost our voices. Look for me this summer, roaring around town, belting out Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters in one never-ending loop.
🎵 And I thank the Lord
And finding more excuses to wear floppy hats. Wore them then. Still wearing them now, without the spitting gap.
What is your