ROCKETMAN: Any movie treatment of an envelope pushing, groundbreaking, unconventional artist like Elton John (Taron Egerton) all but demands that it gloriously reflects the excesses of its’ formerly self-destructive subject in a manner that eschews the standard Hollywood biopic. Lee Hall’s (BILLY ELLIOT) screenplay delivers accordingly by introducing us to the title character as he’s making his way over to a group therapy rehab session clad in a garishly orange winged outfit complete with horns that evoke memories of a similar creature in CURSE OF THE DEMON (1957). But as John gradually begins to shed his layers of fashion excess along with his personal defenses, we’re provided with the narrative of his background as something of a musical child prodigy getting precious little support from a self-absorbed mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) and a standoffish military father (Steven Mackintosh) who are both one-dimensionally drawn. But much of his rush to stardom and nearly every addiction known to man is done in the style of classic M-G-M Hollywood musicals utilizing his songs in a way that gives new interpretations and meaning to his works that’s sure to be noticed by people who’ve been hearing his music for decades. The primary storyline is a familiar one of the brilliant yet tortured artist who falls into the wretched excesses of global fame but who can only find the love that he desperately seeks from throngs of adoring crowds. Much of the subplots, which take the non-linear route throughout, revolve around John’s relationships with longtime collaborator and personal friend Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) as well as a manipulative manager who exploits the singer’s talents and the fortune that comes with it by convincing him to give himself over to his homosexual longings. The film ably captures the spirit and look of the era and Julian Day’s over the top costumes all portend the creation of “glam rock” by the singer. Egerton (KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE), who I swear never looks the same in any role he plays, gives a first-rate portrayal and his singing performances effortlessly convey the charisma and talent that made John a superstar from his music alone. In his first “credited” directorial debut (See CLOSING CREDITS.), Dexter Fletcher takes an oh-so familiar story of a lonely, introverted boy who channels his prodigious talents into his artistry into a highly original spin on a work that plays with both time and reality into a film that’s as flamboyantly creative as it is enjoyable. CRITIC’S GRADE: B+
CLOSING CREDITS: It’s pretty much inevitable that this movie will be compared to last fall’s BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018) which was a good film that should have been a great one. But the two works share a common thread that goes back to December 2017 when 20th Century Fox fired RHAPSODY director Bryan Singer (X-MEN) and even shut down his Bad Hat Harry production company. According to “The Hollywood Reporter”, Singer was hired by FOX chairman Stacey Snider with the demand that the filmmaker show up every day for work. After a while, it became apparent that Singer was failing to hold up his end of the bargain and he often called in his cinematographer, Tom Sigel, to shoot scenes in his absence. When Singer did make an appearance, he was often late, unprepared and given over to bizarre crying “jags” whenever his behavior was challenged. The straw that finally broke the camel’s back occurred around Thanksgiving 2017 when Singer requested that production be halted for a few weeks so that he could attend to an ailing parent. Snider refused and terminated Singer and brought in ROCKETMAN’s eventual director Dexter Fletcher to finish filming the movie which was about three-quarters of the way to completion. While Singer received directorial credit for the film, he was dropped as its’ producer.