“I was in the cinema for about 15 minutes before I started crying… really sobbing, in that loud, unguarded, emotionally destroyed way”. Upon viewing the rough cut of his biopic ‘Rocketman’, Elton John was completely overcome by emotion; it seems that this was an extremely vulnerable process for him, which makes it unsurprising that the film took fifteen years to develop.
Obvious to anyone who has watched it, ‘Rocketman’ is rated PG-15; Elton commented that he “didn’t want a film packed with drugs and sex, but equally, everyone knows [he] had quite a lot of both during the 70s and 80s”. It is also reportedly the first movie from a major studio’s non-specialty label to feature a sex scene between two men. In my opinion, the directorial choice to highlight addictive aspects of his personality was necessary in order for the audience to appreciate the extent of his downward spiral, and how this played into his unhealthy relationship with sex.
But is it an entirely realistic portrayal? In short, no. Although you would hope for a warts-and-all take on his career, ultimately Elton himself served as Executive Producer, with any downfalls in his character playing into the wider redemption arc of the plot. Personally, I was prepared to overlook this, suspending my disbelief in order to fully appreciate some of the fantasy elements of the film, such as the audience levitation during his debut at the Troubadour, truly a moment where I felt that I was witnessing something extraordinary.
The highly choreographed group numbers and painfully intimate solos make for an engaging viewing experience akin to a West End musical, complete with incredible songs, outrageous costumes, and hugely talented actors, allowing us an insight into the transformation from Reginald Dwight to Elton John: “chaotic, funny, mad, horrible, brilliant and dark”.