Rocketman is closer to A Star is Born than Bohemian Rhapsody Picture: David Appleby/ Paramount Pictures via AP
Rocketman is closer to A Star is Born than Bohemian Rhapsody Picture: David Appleby/ Paramount Pictures via AP

Is the Rocketman movie worth watching?

ROCKETMAN is a confessional.

"I'm an alcoholic, a cocaine addict, a sex addict, a shopaholic and a bulimic," Elton John (Taron Egerton) says to group therapy at a rehab centre.

He's bedazzled in a flaming orange and sequined costume with wings, horns and feathers. It's an over-the-top and big outfit because John is an over-the-top and big personality.

It also sets the tone for Rocketman. This is not Bohemian Rhapsody, it proclaims. This will not be a sanitised peek-a-boo of someone's life, barely teasing at the surface of a complex creative genius. Rocketman gives you the warts and all version.

The real John said that Rocketman couldn't be PG because he hasn't led a PG life. So don't expect this to be a family friendly romp for all, because there is sex, drugs, drinking and a couple of C-bombs. Don't bring the kiddies.

Taron Egerton sings every note you hear in the movie Picture: David Appleby/Paramount Pictures via AP
Taron Egerton sings every note you hear in the movie Picture: David Appleby/Paramount Pictures via AP


Working in flashbacks from the time he sat down at his grandma's (Gemma Jones) piano as a kid to 1990, it's a whirlwind ride of fame, fortune and desperate loneliness.

Unloved by his parents, especially his father who walked out on the family when John was a young teen, John's emotional journey is every bit as important as his musical one.

Rocketman is very much a musical in which characters do break out into song outside of the recording studio or on stage.

John's songs are used to excellent effect, even if the chronology of release is all over the place, hand-picked to match the tone and character beat of the moment.

An early set-piece with Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting is a euphoric display of jiving bodies at a fairground, capturing the highs of John's rise. It's a complex and accomplished piece of choreography which only has about three or four edits.

And then there's the performance of Crocodile Rock at the Troubadour, crackling with energy and verve.

Rocketman feels emotionally honest about Elton John’s self-loathing
Rocketman feels emotionally honest about Elton John’s self-loathing

Egerton's forceful performance will see the young Brit feted across the globe, especially his vocal prowess. Here, unlike Rami Malek in BoRhap, Egerton is singing every single note of every single song. In the case of Your Song, that vocal performance was live on set and not in studio.

It makes all the difference knowing that.

Rather than BoRhap, Rocketman is closer to A Star is Born, in which the first half of the film is an intoxicating high, and then there's the come down as John's life descends into a hellpit of drink, drugs and self-loathing.

The latter half of the film becomes repetitive and lacks the momentum of the earlier scenes, and as John becomes more trapped in his own head, missing whole swathes of his own life in a stupor, so does the audience.

A life of excess. Picture: David Appleby/Paramount Pictures via AP
A life of excess. Picture: David Appleby/Paramount Pictures via AP

Which can be frustrating because it also has the effect of cutting us off from the supporting characters - his mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard), longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and manager and lover John Reid (Richard Madden) - whose stories are under-served.

Especially when it tantalisingly hints at Taupin's parallel story, and as the lyricist-half of the songwriter team it feels like there's a fascinating tale to be told there.

John's 1984 marriage to Renate Blauel is glossed over in a matter of minutes and his sexual relationship with Reid ends abruptly - a real shame because Egerton and Madden's on-screen chemistry is undeniable (just watch them buddy around on Carpool Karaoke).

Egerton and Madden has sizzling on-screen chemistry
Egerton and Madden has sizzling on-screen chemistry

Unlike A Star is Born, the only love story here is the one where John must learn to love himself, and to accept love. Rocketman is less successful when it comes to that part.

It resorts to cheesy tropes, does more telling than showing and ultimately doesn't answer the question it keeps asking, "Who is Elton John?"

Director Dexter Fletcher, who also helmed half of BoRhap after Bryan Singer's sacking, is a capable filmmaker and there are many stylistic flourishes, including a 360-degree camera spin, that really sells John's grandiose life.

There is no going past the ambition of Rocketman. It may not be a straight-up biopic in terms of everything that happened and when, but it's honest about the self-destruction it took to get John to sobriety - and honesty is not something BoRhap can claim.

For that - and Egerton's performance - Rocketman is very appealing.

Rating: ★★★½

Rocketman is in cinemas on Thursday, May 30

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