Rocket Man at The Rebel – I rather rate it …

It’s not like Bohemian Rhapsody I was told, and you do know it’s a musical? Well, no matter, because it’s a foot-tapping musical of songs I know (and largely like)!

So, my expectations were not high for Rocket Man at the Rebel, but it was a fairly packed space, and the film ended quickly. I never once looked at my watch which makes it a success in my book! It’s a musical fantasy, a biopic about Elton John’s childhood and breakthrough years, plus where it all went wrong – because it always does.

I saw Elton perform at the Eden Project a few years back. He has a huge amount of energy and an alarming number of songs I know the words to.

Born Reginald Dwight, the film shows a shy child prodigy pianist of very ordinary parents, apart from the fact that his father was depicted in the film as very restrictive, the conventional patriarch, while his mother was livelier but self-obsessed. With one parent uninterested, absent and undemonstrative, and the other a little verbally vindictive and bohemian, only child, Reggie was on the receiving end of spoken and unspoken criticism while also listening in to the family arguments. His parents divorced when he was 14. His mother remarried and Reggie got on with his stepfather, Fred, but by then the damage of being a largely unwanted child had been done.

Not wishing to ruin it all, the film depicts his ongoing friendship (non-sexual) with songwriter, Bernie Taupin (that part is lovely, actually) alongside his voracious appetite for drugs, drink, food (he later developed bulimia and a cocaine addiction) and sex, a marriage to a woman which was alleged to cover his homosexuality and his struggle to come to terms with the issues underpinning many of his songs. Taron Egerton plays a difficult role so, so well, even to the point of putting on that best fake smile before going on stage.

In so many ways, despite massive talent and wealth, this is a sad film about a man with so many struggles, and exploitative relationships. Elton became a self-confessed drug addict in the 1980s, a role it took a massive effort to escape.

Wanna be a rock ‘n’ roll star? After watching this, no thanks. If you can have everything the world can give and still be distraught after a sharp word from your mother, or the disinterest of your father, then that rather sums up what is important in life.

Glad to say, Elton John did eventually seek help and find his happy place with his husband, film-maker, David Furnish, and their children. I do like a happy ending.


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