Rocketman (3 stars)

Rocketman

Fantasy replaces fact in this fun biopic of Elton John, from director Dexter Fletcher

Biopics are usually feeble fare if their subject is still living and potentially litigious. Considering Sir Elton John is alive, kicking and executive producer of his own dramatised story, produced by his husband David Furnish, this had plenty of potential to be an embarrassing vanity project. Surprise! Rocketman, directed by Dexter Fletcher and scripted by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, is a lot of fun and very cute.

Of course, anyone expecting a revelatory, strictly factual account of Elton's life might have to wait until after he's popped his sequined platforms for a more honest documentary appraisal. This is a sparkly fantasy musical in which people in the street (and also the pub, fun fair and underwater at a pool party) burst into song. And Elton (an exuberant, sympathetic, all-singing, all-dancing Taron Egerton), songwriting partner Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and Elton's lover / manager John Reid (Richard Madden) must be as delighted as we are that they are played by men a lot better looking than they were.

The framing device is a good one. A middle-aged Elton is in crisis; baring his soul in rehab group therapy, he admits to sorrows, self-loathing and addictions (alcohol, drugs, sex and shopping). Thus everything, fair dos, is from his point of view; montages of memory whip up a storm of family dysfunction, friendship, fame, fabulous costumes and give us a sex scene in which Egerton and Madden are so hot that people will drool, whatever their personal preferences.

Director Fletcher, who made the musical gem Sunshine on Leith and took over directing duties on Bohemian Rhapsody from Bryan Singer, does a sweet job with the fantasy sequences, rock concerts and sprinkles in some magically inventive touches. It helps that he's working from a classic songbook that's sure to trigger some tears and a fair amount of toe-tapping.

General release from Wed 22 May.

Rocketman

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • UK / US
  • 2h 1min
  • Directed by: Dexter Fletcher
  • Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard
  • UK release: 24 May 2019

This Elton John biopic, exec-produced by its subject, could have been a vanity project, but it’s a fun and cute fantasy musical; Egerton as John as exuberant and sympathetic, and the framing device is sensible. Hardly revelatory, but Fletcher does a good job and sprinkles some inventiveness. Classic songbook helps.

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