Preview of the film: “Rocketman” | Movie previews


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“Restraint” shouldn’t be the first word that comes to mind when describing the larger-than-life singer Elton John. But that’s exactly the descriptor that came to me while watching director Dexter Fletcher’s surprisingly shy and conventional rock musical biopic of The Artist’s Most Unconventional Life.

The tagline for “Rocketman” is “based on a real fantasy”, and the concept of musical fantasy at first glance seems to promise something really different. And Fletcher (who is no stranger to the biopic genre, having driven “Bohemian Rhapsody” across the finish line after Bryan Singer got fired late in that film’s production) is racking up enough show to match the character. flamboyant John. Yet for all of its extravagance and glamor, the film never quite breaks free from the standard biopic formula.

In fact, the only thing that sets “Rocketman” apart from other similar biopics is that it has a belief in being a musical in its own right, with characters entering selections from the huge catalog of hits. ‘Elton John, even when they’re not on stage. . This approach prevents Lee Hall’s screenplay from becoming a tedious chronological account of the singer’s life.

It also makes the movie more akin to a Broadway musical – which isn’t a bad thing – and technically saves some enterprising producers from having to adapt the script when the movie is definitely going on stage somewhere. later.

Fletcher uses a daringly theatrical framing device, with John (attractively played by Taron Egerton) – dressed in a glittering orange bell-bottom jumpsuit with devil horns, massive feathered wings and sparkly shaped sunglasses from the Heart – reflecting on her life to members of her addiction recovery support group.

Born Reginald Dwight, he was raised by a cold and absent father (Steven Makintosh) and an indifferent mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) who were mostly happy to leave him, at least when they weren’t berating the boy for being “gentle.” . “

From an early age, John was a musical prodigy and, with the encouragement of his grandmother, qualified for a scholarship to a prestigious music academy. There, he cultivated his talents by playing in dive bars until a fateful meeting with lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), who would become his writing partner for the next decades. Together, the duo met with enormous success, chaining after coup.

But the main problem is that all musical biopics seem to follow the same path, and in this way “Rocketman” is no different: an extraordinarily gifted youngster finds success, leading to sex, drugs and alienation. his relatives, followed by rehabilitation and a final return-redemption. Wash, rinse, repeat.

While the narrative may be strictly by the book, there are some wonderful musical sequences throughout, including a lively rendition of “Honky Cat,” following John and Reid as they live the high life together. title, a kaleidoscopic take on “Crocodile Rock”, John’s gravity-defying debut at Los Angeles club the Troubadour.

These production numbers put us in the performer’s headspace, dramatizing the singer’s twin struggles with repressed sexuality and addiction, suggesting that his exaggerated onstage character was truly a shield to hide who he really was from the world. , while simultaneously becoming an icon to millions. Even John’s outrageous style and extravagant costumes – faithfully recreated by costume designer Julian Day – was a way to combat his inherent shyness. John himself was closely involved in the production of “Rocketman,” and I guess it’s to his credit that the film doesn’t always paint a rosy portrayal of the singer in his youth.

John’s upbringing left him hungry for affection, with a desperate need to be loved, which led to a destructive relationship with manager-turned-lover John Reid (a charming Richard Madden) who helped make John more comfortable with his homosexuality, but ended up tearing up control over his career. Interestingly, a less malicious version of Reid also played a part in the “Bohemian Rhapsody” narrative, played by actor Aiden Gillen.

Egerton puts all his heart and soul into his performance, and it’s a testament to his charisma and talent that the film works so well. It is an animated and lived representation. Egerton also sings himself – not that this is the ultimate goal of the performances, but I appreciate the effort and contribute to a more complete performance.

The film is effective in illustrating the detrimental effect of being locked up on the singer’s quest for happiness and his ability to find love and affection. Thankfully, “Rocketman” isn’t shy about its portrayal of John’s sexuality, and producers have touted it as the first major, widely-released studio film to contain gay sex. But before you get too hot and deranged, those scenes are still incredibly tame – exemplifying the kind of sex that would have clearly squeaked with a PG-13 rating if the couple who had it were straight.

In the end, I wanted as much of the screaming and daring risk-taking of the storytelling as the subject of the film has shown throughout its life. After watching the film, some of my viewing mates discussed what a filmmaker like Baz Luhrmann could have done with the same material. Luhrmann is a filmmaker who knows how to overwhelm the senses, his style fearlessly going overboard – just like John himself – in ways this film could have used more.

Fletcher’s management too often feels too concerned to be respectful. It’s a film that everyone likes, but it clings to convention in a way that makes the story much more low-key and small. It seems the creators of these biopics feel the need to force artists’ lives to fit into the same predetermined box – albeit at times dramatically decorated – and the choice keeps this “Rocketman” firmly tied to the earth.

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