Film Review: ROCKETMAN (UK/USA 2019) ****

Rocketman Poster
A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John‘s breakthrough years.

Director:

Dexter Fletcher

Writer:

Lee Hall (screenplay)

You got to love it when a subject executively produces his own biopic.  And even more when the subject is Sir Elton John.

Elton John is world famous and known for his outrageous performances, flashy costumes an controversial remarks.  His biopic, directed by Dexter Fletcher and written by Lee Hall who wrote BILLY ELLIOT) opens with him in bright orange gear, entering a bright light, which the audience assumes is going to be a grand stage, but turns out hilariously to be the room for an Alcoholics Anonymous gathering.  As the orange clad figures discusses his life, the biopic relates the story of one of the world’s best signer/songwriter from little boy to the present.

The film’s next scene has Elton as a little boy in a song and dance number that is immediately reminiscent of Ken Russell’s THE WHO musical TOMMY where little Tommy is inserted in a number called “Bernie’s holiday camp”.   Russell’s TOMMY has important significance to Elton John as he had a cameo role in the film as the pinball wizard, with the popular song later performed in its full entirety by John in the biopic.

By inevitable comparison to the recent BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (Director Fletcher was named the replacement director for BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and helped finish that film though only Bryan Singer received director’s credit) which won 4 Oscars including the Best Actor prize for Rami, ROCKETMAN is more enjoyable to this reviewer for 2 reasons.  This reviewer is a true Elton John and not a Queen fan, and so every song crooned in ROCKETMAN brings both nostalgia and joy.  The film is also splashy and more daring (the sex scene that was left intact in the film, according to the Daily Mail article, compared to RHAPSODY where there were no sex scenes).  The sex seen in ROCKETMAN, with John and his lover doing the nasties both butt naked in bed is sufficiently eye-opening though no intercourse is actually on display.

Both Tagor Egerton as Elton John and Jamie Bell (BILLY ELLIOT and THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN) as his lyricist and friend, Bernie Turpin are close to perfect in their roles.   Elton John has himself praised Egerton’s performance in the film.  What could be a better complement?  Egerton also gets the Elton John mannerisms down pat to a ‘t’.

Certain songs in the film add a certain resonance not realized by many.  One prime example are the lyrics of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” crooned by both Bernie Turpin and Elton John.  ‘….going back to the howling old owl in the woods, hunting the horny black toad, I’m going back where my future lies, beyond the Yellow Brick Road”.  This segment is not only the most moving but most powerful part of the film which effectively forms the climatic moment of the film.

ROCEKTMAN which clocks just over the two hour mark reveals both the genius and demons of this talented individual.  Owing to the nature of the subject, the downward spiralling of John is still glamorously displayed and neither dismal looking nor dull.  One prime example is his diving in the pool fantasy sequence where John meets his boy-self at the bottom playing ROCKETMAN on is toy piano.

A few facts on his life are missing on the screen most notably his spat with Madonna and his knighthood.  These would have added even more spice to the otherwise heavily layered dessert.

ROCKETMAN has been chosen as the Opening Night film for Toronto’s 2019 LGBT Inside Out Film Festival.  This weekend the film goes head-to-head competition with two other blockbusters, GODZILLA 2 (Ugh!) and MA.  Elton John fans around the film should (their numbers alone) make ROCKETMAN the number 1 at the box-office.  ROCEKTMAN deserves to be, anyway.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3vO8E2e6G0

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Movie Review: EDDIE THE EAGLE (UK/USA/Germany 2016) ***

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eddie_the_eagle_poster.jpgEDDIE THE EAGLE (UK/USA/Germany 2016) ***
Directed by Dexter Fletcher

Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Tom Costello Jr.

Review by Gilbert Seah

EDDIE THE EAGLE is the typical type of British export crowd pleaser that have charmed North American audiences. Similar films like KINKY BOOTS, THE FULL MONTY, BEND IN LIKE BECKHAM, BRASSED OFF and THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL have all done well at the box-office. So, why not a film about the feel-good story of Michael (Eddie) Edwards (played by Taron Egerton) appropriately called EDDIE THE EAGLE?

Eddie is a tenacious British ski jumper who believes he is good enough to enter the Olympics. He has never stopped believing in himself, much to the consternation of his dad, a plasterer who wants his son to follow his own footsteps. Even the British Olympic Selection Committee wants him out. With the help of a rebellious and charismatic coach (played with equal tenacity by Hugh Jackman), Eddie takes on the establishment and wins the hearts of sports fans around the world by making an improbable and historic showing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Based on true events – as the titles at the films start tells the audience.

Top marks for effort go to Hugh Jackman who plays disgraced skier Bronson Peary who eventually becomes Eddie’s coach. It must be tough for this talent to go through all the ropes. It is tough enough to pretend to play someone who cares, but to evoke all the fake emotions, do the silly dance training steps and act and cry as if it all matters, Jackman does the job. (He must have been paid a lot.) As for Egerton who plays the lead role, he looks and acts too much like Bubbles of the Trailer Park Boys. But to be fair, the real Edwards, shown at the end credits does look like Bubbles. The film contains a few neat cameos from the likes of Christopher Walken and Jim Broadbent.

To the film’s credit, the film set in the 80’s with the Calgary Olympic 1988 setting does have an authentic 80’s atmosphere aided by the film’s 80’s songs soundtrack. The choice of Van Halen’s song “Jump’ used is a bit too obvious.

Director Fletcher (whose credit in film lies in the acting department from various minor roles in films and television) has created a film that is 100% formulaic is 0% originality. Whether the film succeeds depends entirely of which school of audience one comes from. The general public would have no problem cheering whenever Eddie makes a jump or laughing whenever he falls as observed in the promo screening attended. The other school would only grimace and wish the real ‘Eddie’ with all the human faults be revealed in a feel-bad story.

For the general public, this is the kind for feel good movie many would have no problem paying good money for. Fletcher pushes all the right buttons – in fact too many right buttons so that nothing out of the ordinary can be expected. For this group of people, the movie would be rated 4 stars. For the other film cynical critics, filmmakers and art-house cineastes, this 1-star movie is a complete bore and a waste of time.

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