Rocketman

I enjoyed this movie a lot.

To deal with the inevitable comparison, it’s a better movie than Bohemian Rhapsody, although Taron Egerton’s fine performance is not as incandescent as Rami Malek’s.

The movie follows the trajectory of Elton John’s life from his childhood as a music prodigy with perfectly awful parents, and a grandmother who recognized his talent.  Some of his songs appear in their original settings, others are re-arranged in simpler settings which made you realize how good they are.  EJ’s early exhilarating success, and the almost inevitable excesses of sudden fame, are dealt with in a frank and honest fashion.  EJ’s moments of self-awareness, and his occasional flashes of empathy, are treated with great sensitivity.

The movie ends with EJ’s successful rehab.  The events of the last 25 years, in which he seems to have found true happiness in a committed relationship and now has two children, appear only as a brief epilogue, which seems about right.

Early scenes in the movie, in which the young Reginald Dwight (as he then was) is offered a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, may remind you of the movie Billy Elliott.  I imagine that that closeted movie about a boy coming out of the closet spoke to a lot of gay men.  But the fortuitous resonance of that movie with EJ’s own life may have been why EJ bankrolled the Broadway movie based on that story.

In a nice bit of casting, Jamie Bell, who does a fine job as Bernie Taupin, EJ’s longtime collaborator and lifelong friend, played Billy Elliott as a child in the original movie.

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