It’s been a big time for music-star movie biographies lately, and that’s really thanks to one filmmaker.
Dexter Fletcher was brought in to finish the Oscar-winning “Bohemian Rhapsody” after the original director was fired. He’s also the driving force behind “Rocketman,” the story of Elton John … who has gone through many variations in his work, from being one of the flashiest stars to take the stage, to settling into an easy-listening mode that even saw — and heard — him furnish a Disney-movie staple (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” from “The Lion King”).
Fletcher demonstrates that he’s more than up to tackling such a job from the start, drawing an excellent performance from “Kingsman”-franchise star Taron Egerton as the singer-songwriter behind countless hits that have stretched from the 1970s forward.
Flashbacks triggered by a group-therapy session cover John’s early life, with Bryce Dallas Howard as his rather undemonstrative mother and Jamie Bell (whose “Billy Elliot” also was devised by this picture’s writer, Lee Hall) as his longtime creative partner Bernie Taupin. Stage and screen veteran Gemma Jones earns high marks as the grandmother whose devotion helped John through his younger years.
Elton John himself is one of the executive producers here, so he had a direct say in what is or isn’t included. Given that, he deserves credit for allowing the amount and depth of personal information, with Richard Madden playing a manager who became a key figure in that. It’s quite possible that some of John’s fans don’t know his whole story, and while “Bohemian Rhapsody” received some criticism for stopping short of full details on Freddie Mercury’s background, that’s not likely to happen in this case.
And then there are the performance sequences in “Rocketman,” expectedly energetic, and also quite impressive from the standpoint of Egerton himself doing the singing. That’s the thing about an acting job like this: It’s more than the acting since the performer in question also has to look and sound thoroughly convincing musically, and Egerton deserves the same sort of kudos that eventually led Rami Malek to his “Bohemian Rhapsody” Oscar.
Logically, many of John’s music hits are included, from “Your Song” to “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” If there’s one area in which viewers might feel shortchanged, though, it’s in its omission of much focus on John’s current life as the husband of David Furnish and father of two children. That’s covered by the film only briefly, but overall, “Rocketman” does a fine job of showing how its subject is still standing.