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If you walk into Rocketman expecting it to be Bohemian Rhapsody you'll leave disappointed.

Sitting through Rocketman is like taking a drug-fuelled trip through Elton John’s haziest and most wildly manic childhood dreams.

The new biographical musical film is based on the early life of musician Elton John and draws a raucous yet deeply depressing line from his early childhood days as piano prodigy Reggie Dwight to his rapid rise to superstardom as ‘Elton’ before taking a deep dive into his painful years of loneliness and addiction.

Rather than framing it as a more linear and historically tinged story, as so many biographies that play out on the big screen do, Rocketman instead explodes across the screen as a more of a string of stylised musical fantasy sequences, haphazardly woven together with a touch of drama and some show-stopping tunes.

Rocketman is a movie that chooses not to bother itself with anything as fussy as background details, audience-friendly timelines or anything that dares to skate too close to reality.

But boy, is it still one hell of an entertaining and emotional viewing experience.

Of course, it’s already been closely compared to 2018’s box office smash-hit, the Oscar-winning Bohemian Rhapsody. In some senses, the two films are very similar in that they both pay tribute to musical legends while showcasing their struggles with success, loneliness and sexual identity. But if you walk into Rocketman expecting it to play out in the same way that Bohemian Rhapsody did then you’ll just leave the cinema disappointed.

Rocketman’s feverish and rapidly paced scenes play out more like a stage musical on steroids; supporting characters can burst into song at any given moment and there’s an extended musical number featuring a small child playing a toy piano at the bottom of a pool while wearing an oxygen mask. So don’t try to compare it, just go with it.

Take a look at the trailer for Rocketman below. Post continues after video.

One of the strongest elements of Rocketman is the casting of Taron Egerton as Elton John, who took his transformation into the musical legend to intense and personal method acting heights. In the film he is both equally raw, broken and still as he is exuberant and practically manic.

During the Australian premiere of Rocketman, Egerton told the crowd that he had asked director Dexter Fletcher if he could sing live in as many scenes of the movie as possible in order to fully inhabit the character of Elton John, and that his performance of ‘Your Song’ was his favourite moment from making the movie.

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Thanks to this, the moments where he performs live are among the most enticing and mesmerising in the film. Couple that with the fact that Egerton was able to get an extreme amount of guidance from Elton John himself, to the point where John allowed him to read the private journals he kept throughout those years that had yet to be viewed by another soul, and we have something not often seen on a cinema screen. A character shaped by the very person whose story is being told and while this method doesn’t allow for a whole lot of critical perspective to enter into the movie’s creation it does flavour it with a sense of behind-the-scenes realism.

In the supporting cast of Rocketman, there is Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s cold and self-absorbed mother Sheila, an unsatisfied woman with failed aspirations of a more glamorous life, who appears to both despise and ignore her son in equal measure throughout his life. Both Sheila and her son are left broken and abandoned by his father  (Steven Mackintosh) who walks away from them to start a new family and raise two new sons.

Elton’s first taste of acceptance and salvation comes from being paired with his songwriter partner Bernie Taupin (played brilliantly by Jamie Bell) which provides the catalyst for his career to take off.

Elton’s enduring friendship with Bernie is the most stabilising and emotionally satisfying relationship thread throughout the film. It’s a relationship that’s even more beautiful to watch with the knowledge that Bernie and Elton are still close friends and colleagues to this day.

In an equally meaty but definitely more sinister role is Richard Madden as John Reid, Elton’s self-serving and calculating longtime music manager turned lover turned nemesis.

He and Elton embark on a passionate love affair before Elton begins to spiral into a drug-fuelled depression, angering Reid to the point where he not only punches Elton in the face when he refuses to perform at a concert but also snarls that he’ll “still be collecting my 20 per cent long after you’re dead” when Elton is guzzling pills and booze in a sobbing mess on his bedroom floor.

As a biographical offering, Rocketman is a little lacking and will send you directly on a Google rabbit hole to attempt to fill in the missing pieces yourself. But as a movie and a celebration of music Rocketman is a feast for your eyes and overall an intoxicating viewing experience.

Rocketman will play in cinemas Australia-wide from Thursday 30 May, it is rated M. 

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here). 

Tags: enteratinment , features , movies , review
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