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The Many Lives Of Elton

Saturday, June 01, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

Dexter Fletcher
Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard and others
Rating: * * * *

A film made on a popular music star, with his participation and during his lifetime—that does not happen often. So, even if Dexter Fletcher’s riotous sequin-studded movie, Rocketman, is called a “true fantasy” there is a degree of honesty to it, maybe not warts-and-all, but enough not to cover up what is already known about Elton John.

Coming soon after the much-awarded and equally criticized Bohemian Rhapsody, about Queen’s Freddie Mercury, there are bound to be comparisons. Both musicians had troubled childhoods, prodigious talent, flamboyant personalities, problems with addition, and, their homo or bisexuality to contend with. If there weren’t dramatic highs and lows in a celebrity’s life, who would be interested in making biopic on them?

What Fletcher (who was brought in to complete Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singher’s controversial exit) brings to the screen are the imaginatively stylized musical sequences, that punctuate the earnest narrative about a nerdy, bespectacled kid called Reginald Dwight, growing up in a middle class home with a cold father (Steven Mackintosh), and flaky mother (Bryce Dallas Howard). His grandmother (Gemma Jones), takes him to Royal Academy of Music, where his journey to becoming Elton John commences.

The film begins with Elton bursting in through a door, dressed as the devil in a sequined and winged costume, joining a therapy group to talk about his addictions. The film charts them all, along with his emotional turbulence, good and bad relationships and that drug-induced suicide attempt (that is given a wonderful visual and musical treatment.)

The early years, his friendship with his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), the adopting of a new name with a persona to match, and lovely scenes like the one of his memorable American debut, in 1970 at the Troubadour in Los Angeles at age of 23, where he lifts the audience off their feet; the meeting with devious music manager, and later lover, John Reid (Richard Madden), who played a part in his rise.

The famous songs there of course, from Rocketman to Crocodile Rock, The Bitch Is Back, Tiny Dancer, Pinball Wizard, I’m Still Standing and many others, that would please fans.

Taron Egerton, doing his own singing, gives a perfectly rendered portrayal of Elton John, again taking a risk, because the real one is around for comparison—and fans can be brutal. He may not have got the physical resemblance or even the voice absolutely right, but he seems to capture the spirit of Elton John.

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