Chew's Reviews - Rocketman

By Gary Chew |    

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In 1970, two songs were recorded and released that had a similar message: Leon Russell's “A Song For You,” out in May; Elton John and Bernie Taupin's “Your Song” followed in October. John's was the one I first heard. Two lines in Taupin's lyric that come late in the song got my attention:

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss / Well a few of the verses, well they got me quite cross

Taupin is describing how poetry wasn't coming as easily as he wanted. The affect of the song's earlier words had set me up to actually see myself on the roof of my own home pondering the overall beauty John's mega-hit was allowing me to appreciate. I still like that song just as much as I like Leon's. Both are so touching. Being on my roof thinking that ... is as sharp in my head today as it was then. Ah yes, a moment.

A string of Elton John's biggest records are the bricks for an astounding bio-pic that operatically relates the break through period in the life of Reginald Kenneth Dwight, aka Sir Elton Hercules John. Director Dexter Fletcher's mortar holding together this rather grand movie are painful issues that became the predicate for Elton John's rise to lasting fame. Cold parents --- in spite of a loving grandmother --- alcohol, pills, cocaine and serial-same-gender bacchanalian sex produced deep depression in the rock star. Elton, no doubt, acknowledged Elvis's influence on American pop music, if not how peripheral habits to such a lifestyle tend to ironically make existence unbearable.

A roster of mostly British actors appears in the ROCKETMAN cast: Taron Egerton as John; Jamie Bell as Taupin; Richard Madden as John's manger, John Reid ... with film director Ron Howard's daughter Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones and Steven Mackintosh in supporting roles. The script was done by another Brit, Lee Hall. Fletcher finished off the shooting of last year's hit BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY following the firing of RHAPSODY'S initial director, Bryan Singer.

I'm not a scholar of Elton's records; I'd left rock disc-jockery before John hit the charts, though it seems to me nearly every one of his big sellers got a fancied-up treatment scene in the film, although an early hit by Elton and Bernie goes missing, that being “Levon.” I wonder what Alvin Tostig feels about that.

I'm as big a fan of The Who as I am Elton John, so I was wildly entertained by Edgerton, doing Elton, wowing the audience with a cover of Pete Townshend's song well known from that rock opera called “Tommy.” And yes, it is the best song from “Tommy.” Surely, you remember “Pinball Wizard!” That music stepped into the rock world in the late Sixties. Good rockin' tonight if you go see ROCKETMAN.

The movie gives a quick sighting of a Tower Record sign as John makes his first trip to Los Angeles. That's about when the script lays out a passing and subtle compliment to an Oklahoman for his proven abilities as a West Coast studio musician. It was in 2010 that John gave a full-voiced appreciation to Leon Russell, a part of The Tulsa Sound they recorded and released their album titled “The Union.”

This bio-pic of a rock legend falls into a similar genre with a widely acclaimed 2016 film from Damien Chazelle … LA LA LAND. Their styles of music are light-years apart, but each is musical fantasy, or as I like to call them, a magically-realized opera. Lots of song, dance and deep duress.

You might be surprised to know that I'm usually not a large fan of this kind of film. On the other hand, both of these flicks rank high on my list.

Copyright © 2019 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.


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