Rocketman – Review

Worth seeing: as a bold and shamelessly camp, full-blown musical, telling the story of one of Britain's best loved musical icons
Director:Dexter Fletcher
Featuring:Taron Egerton, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Stephen Graham, Steven Mackintosh, Tate Donovan, Tom Bennett
Length:121 minutes
Country:UK, US
Released:22nd May 2019


A flamboyant, sparkly horned devil floats down a corridor, bursts into a support group meeting and announces himself as Elton Hercules John, an alcoholic, cocaine addict, sex addict – and shopaholic.

Then we flash back to a young boy in northwest London, who finds solace in the family piano, when his mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) and father (Steven Mackintosh) never seem to get around to loving him.

As friends and lovers come and go, Elton John rises from an innocent, unloved child to a pompous superstar, before crashing down to earth with a bump in this affectionate – authorised – musical biopic.


Coming less than a year after another film about a gay, drug addicted, 1970s British singing sensation, this is the film that Bohemian Rhapsody should have been.

Music and Rami Malek’s Oscar-winning performance aside, Bryan Singer’s Freddie Mercury biopic was bereft of drama and lacked a soul.

But from Taron Egerton’s first appearance on screen as Elton John, the central character of Rocketman will win over audiences and even as he evolves into a spoilt, self-important addict, he remains a loveable oaf. And among the supporting characters in his life are good guys, villains and villains disguised as good guys. This isn’t a film about someone craving fame – it’s a film about someone craving love. Fame is almost a side-effect.

Rather than simply doing an impression of the troubled star, as Malek did with Freddie Mercury, Egerton gets under the skin of Elton John and explores his insecurities. It was perhaps easier – with a living subject and one who was actively involved in the production – for Egerton to bring the character to life and he’s taken full advantage of being able to bounce off the real Sir Elton to create a fully-rounded on-screen presence.

Directed by Dexter Fletcher, who was brought in to finish Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman is less biopic and more musical – it mixes and matches Elton John’s biggest hits to fit what’s going on at different points in the story, rather than sticking rigorously to the chronology – but most significantly, rather than featuring the music only in concert scenes or as we see him writing or rehearsing, characters burst into song from time to time, allowing the narrative itself to unfold through the music.

At times, this includes spectacular fantasy dance sequences, including the childhood Elton’s neighbours dancing in the street in unison.

It’s a delightfully effervescent, bold and shamelessly camp, full-blown musical, infused with enough drama to keep you on your toes. And the music, of course, will have you tapping them – while tugging on your heart-strings where required.

Perhaps Fletcher undermined Bohemian Rhapsody to ensure that his own baby, Rocketman, had less competition – it’s a shame for Taron Egerton that with the Academy having just honoured Malek for playing Freddie Mercury, they might not feel inclined to recognise a second gay, drug-addicted British, 1970s musical icon in as many years.