Arts & Leisure

“Rocketman” blazes across the screen

TARIN EDGERTON as Elton John in “Rocketman” (Paramount Pictures).

By Jim Tortolano

The classic movie musicals of a bygone era were thought to have become as outdated as white wall tires and beehive hairdos. But history teaches us that everything comes back into style if you wait long enough.

Especially, if you do it right.

“Rocketman,” the rocking biopic of rock star Elton John does it very right. Using his best-known songs as jumping off points for telling the story of his life, this film avoids the hokey “breaking into song” approach of the Rogers and Hammerstein technique, using symbolism and brilliant choreography to advance not just the storyline but also its subtext.

This is the story of Reginald Dwight, a young piano virtuoso who would rather be Elvis that Chopin.  Played and sung flawlessly as an adult by Tarin Edgerton, the leading role combines measured acting with electric performance.

Dwight re-invents himself as Elton John (stealing a first name from a band mate and a last name from a favorite Beatle) and – clad in outrageous outfits, takes the pop and rock worlds by storm.

Of course, he’s only half of the Elton John music machine. He writes the music but Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) writes the lyrics and the two become more or less inseparable. That’s professionally, not romantically. Elton’s sexual orientation wavers around a bit, and his desire to be loved – making up for a hugless childhood – leads him into ever-more dangers.

This is the kind of musical film that can be admired both for its solid acting and its spectacular music stylings. If Rami Malek (the lip-syncher) and “Bohemian Rhapsody” made a big impact at the 2019 Oscars, Edgerton and “Rocketman” could sweep the field in 2010.

“Rocketman” is rated R for language, drug and alcohol abuse, and sensuality.

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