Words: Giulia Lombardo
Its been almost two years since the release of the incredible movie ‘Rocketman’ inspired on the life of the one and only (I cannot stress this enough) Elton John, and I still can’t get over it.
‘Rocketman’ is not only the film that Elton John always wanted to make about himself, but it is also the film he (and us as-well) always wanted to see about Elton John. And of course, it has very little to do with a classic biopic: the only way to tell Elton’s story is to immerse yourself in his fantasy and let the border between reality and imagination become more and more blurred. Translated into a cinematic genre, it means only one thing: musical. Featuring incredible costumes, elaborate choreography and magical moments of realism. Don’t be surprised if you see Elton flying over his piano.
But that doesn’t take anything away from the truth-factor of the film. In fact ‘Rocketman’ – directed by Dexter Fletcher – does not even think about sweetening or smoothing: there is sex – with his first manager, played by Richard Madden – there are pills and cocaine sniffs, even a suicide attempt. In short, ‘Rocketman’ also goes straight on the torments that accompanied the transformation of the timid pianist prodigy Reginald Dwight in the international super star, who today is touring the world with his farewell tour after 50 years of career.
The film’s narrative focus is in fact the ongoing dualism between Reginald Kenneth Dwight and Elton Hercules John, between a private life of weakness and disappointment and an icon bigger than life. An inner conflict that develops and takes shape in the musical detachments and choreography, in the excellent interpretation of Taaron Egerton, in the temporal ellipses often guessed and in a conventional direction and in favour of the public: elements that, within the limits granted by a biographical film dedicated to such a popular figure, appear to be effective in creating a satisfying and ultimately sincere show.
The plot starts right from the famous rehab of the rock star in the early ’90s, when he showed up at the clinic in a flashy bird costume. Through this intelligent narrative stunt, based on a real event and fundamental to his career and his life, the film tells the beginnings of the singer, from the first time he approached a piano to the period in which he risked self-destruction because of his excesses. Of alcohol, drugs, sex, unbridled luxury: because, as confirmed by his film counterpart in one of the key scenes, Elton John has exaggerated in everything and has enjoyed every moment of his incredible success, but at the same time he risked to pay dearly.
‘Rocketman’ has a screenplay that pays homage to the more transgressive side of Elton without ever forcing the hand, but showing these aspects in a natural and cohesive way, often living also of brilliant contrasts as perfectly demonstrated by the scene in the hospital told through the title song. The songs of Elton John, then, have not only made the history of music, but also often the cinema: ‘Tiny Dancer’ or ‘Your Song’ are inextricably linked to movies like ‘Almost Famous’ or ‘Moulin Rouge’, the choice then to make both musical numbers more intimate and personal, with live performances by the protagonist, they are absolutely winning and by far one of the most exciting of the entire film.
It usually works the other way around: you see the movie, you want to listen to the music.
But with ‘Rocketman’ it is not impossible that it could also be the opposite; because the film’s soundtrack, in which producer and composer Giles Martin took the iconic hits of Elton John by adapting them for the project and its main performer as if they were fabric for a great tailoring dress, has its own strength and its own energy. For those who liked the unpublished biopic musical is a red thread to relive the emotions. For those who, as he writes, appreciated the different eye and the sincerity of the project, but a little less the development of the plot, can be a real rediscovery. For those who have not yet set foot in the room to see the must-have title of the latest years films, it is an excellent approach tool. And it is not only thanks to those who have adapted timeless classics such as ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting’, ‘Crocodile Rock’ and the incredible ‘Rocket Man’, but also the new voice that interprets them.
Rocketman is therefore presented as a musical sparkling and over the top, which is never afraid to dialogue with bad taste, with excesses, with patheticism; but rather that puts its explosiveness at its centre, using Elton John’s songs intelligently and punctually to create escape routes from an often oppressive reality. A film that manages to be honest with the viewer, declaring right from the start that there will not be a realistic representation of the events without the feelings and piano notes driving the rest. Fletcher in this sense uses the rules of the musical and the evasion power typical of the genre to build around the life of the rockstar an authentic show with fireworks: a stream of consciousness for images that visually restore the inner conflict that afflicts its protagonist.