A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunday Morning Post (V.1, #22) – Rocketman

Our hero enters dressed like some sort of winged demon one would find on a Jim Steinman album cover, plops himself down into his therapy session and does not waste time ticking off his Bohemian life style list of addictions: booze, drugs, sex, shopping (!), etc.

As he recounts his journey from child piano prodigy to teenage pub piano player to back up keyboardist for touring American musicians, Elton John’s costume falls apart as he peels away the mystery of how he got to be so screwed up.  First the horns are ripped off, the wings and sequins drop off and we are left with a robe clad angry artist, throwing chairs around and wondering aloud why alcohol is not served at therapy sessions.

Anger management?  Oh, right, that was checked off too. 

We learn that anger issues are one psychological badge the young Reginald Dwight has earned.  As a child, his mother is distant, and his father is seldom at home.  When Dad finally leaves for good, his emotionally starved son rightly grieves that Dad couldn’t even give him a good bye hug.  Dad will later get his second chance with another family of two boys to display physical acts of affection.  The by now superstar Elton witnesses this from his car and feels the bitter warmth of a tear trickle down his cheek.  It’s a heartbreaking image for everyone.

No matter!  Reg is now the record-breaking superstar of record sales and concert attendance.  His albums always soar to the top of the charts.  Love and that wonderful link to all human intimacy?  Bah!  Who needs it!  Elton John can cope with booze, drugs, and occasional episodes of that previously taboo intimacy of homosexual love.

Scenes of despair, debauchery, and one suicide attempt all seem to segue from Reg’s private struggle to another great - sometimes garish, but always guaranteed to top the previous - performance by Elton John.  All of those important in John’s life get a chance to shine:  mom, dad, grandmother, mom’s boyfriend and John’s stepfather, writing partner/brother from another mother Bernie Taupin, and John’s manager/lover all get a chance to tell each other what a pain in the arse they have been to everybody else.

That was a great session, everybody.  I think we made some real progress this week!

Of course, the stories of the rise and fall of music artists are so cliched by now (VH-1 documentary series Behind the Music anyone?) that it invites parody.  However, Rocketman is not your father’s Hollywood biography or even your father’s Hollywood musical.  It’s a very happy mash-up of both genres.  John’s psychological rise, fall, and redemption are told through the songs on which he and Taupin have collaborated down through the years. 

Everyone seems to join in singing Your Song, because, damn it, the sentiments in the music and lyrics are universal and touch everyone.  Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting chronicles teenage angst and rebellion in a high-energy, fast-moving celebration of life.  It’s easy to see why Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me  is a cry for help (but we always knew that) and why Goodbye Yellow Brick Road shows John and Taupin struggling to still believe in the fairy tale ending as they rise above their hard scrabble working class roots.   

The discofied Victim of Love introduces a sequence which chronicles John’s one attempt to find love in a heterosexual marriage.   We all know how this will end.  Bride and groom emerge from separate bedrooms and sit down at opposite ends of the breakfast table with tea on one side and booze on the other.

Cinematically, we’ve been here before: think back to Orson Welles and Ruth Warrick sitting down in the morning and reading rival newspapers in Citizen Kane.  The same tensions still rear their ugly heads after all these years. 

Rocketman shows John soaring (perhaps too fast and too soon) above the rest of us mere mortals to new heights of fame, fortune, and more fortune. I’m Still Standing is the ultimate anthem of triumph over our demons and beating back the bitch in each of us.  Yet, is it enough to beat back the bitch, or can redemption be found in the simple act of hugging the inner child we left behind?

Taron Egerton gives an energetic performance as John and matches John’s voice in recreations of his musical hits.  Jamie Bell (Taupin) and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother also offer stand out performances.  Overall, everyone, from the uncredited extras to the dancers, give powerful and exuberant performances of Elton John’s music.

In the end, we have been mesmerized by his performances, inspired to face another day of our lives with the wonderful simple truths in his songs, and learned a lot about the man he is at home.

Rocketman deserves to be seen to celebrate the life and love each of us has found in Elton’s music over the years. The film has a happy ending in the tradition of Hollywood biographies and musicals.  The epilogue explains that John has been sober for 28 years, at peace with all but one of his addictions, finally found love in a happy marriage, and has actively raised millions for AIDS charities.   If only he could shake that shopping monkey off his back… 

(Thank you for reading.  This one is dedicated to the memory of Janey, another beautiful human being who left us too soon.  Have a Heinekin with Mary on me!)


Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Great review! I love this movie.

June 23, 2019 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Spot on. We saw it and loved it.

June 23, 2019 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Raybeard said...

Yes, you've captured it all in your very comprehensive appraisal. After the recent blast of 'Bohemian Rhapsody', which was rather selective in its episodes though still v. good (but which I think you didn't see), I wasn't expecting this film to surpass it, but it most definitely did. I can't imagine the subject having been in any way disappointed (and, as far as I know, he wasn't) and even if he did have a hand in its making, he most commendably let director Dexter Fletcher use his own hand and imagination to come up with this highly impressive warts-and-all portrait.

One of my favourite Elton songs has always been 'Don't Let the Sun.....' and this is given worthy treatment as here, as are virtually all the musical numbers, even if they weren't shown/played in full completeness.

I can only hope that your review will be the clincher, if there are still any undecided abut seeing this, which they really must on the big screen.

June 23, 2019 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you, Debra. It was very entertaining.

Thank you, Bob. I'm glad you liked the movie.

Thank you, Raybeard. True, we have yet to see Bohemian Rhapsody, but I suspect we'll catch up with it one of these days.

June 23, 2019 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger Dave R said...

Saw this movie and loved it! I do have to admit I thought Taron was rather hot as the devil.

June 24, 2019 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you, Dave R. I suspect we'll be seeing more of Taron in the future...and not necessarily in that way!

June 24, 2019 at 8:09 PM  

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