June 10, 2019 – I decided to go whole hog on this one, opting for viewing, and more importantly, listening to this movie in a theater equipped with Dolby Atmos. It looks and sounds great. Glad I spent the 50 percent surcharge for the extra speakers. Too bad the sound was turned up a bit too loud, but this particular theater plays most movies too loud.
This musical biographical film about the early life of pop music star Elton John is presented in a highly imaginative way, starting out with a mid-career group therapy session, John (played by Taron Egerton, who also sings the songs) recounts his life from childhood to his present circumstance as a drug addicted, bulimic, alcoholic, suicidal music superstar.
Drugs, alcohol, sex, corrupt management, we've seen this all before, right? Not like this, we haven't. Interspersed with fantasy song and dance numbers (and John's extraordinary musical output is on full display) we see Elton John in his early years (played by youngster Matthew Illesley and teenager Kit Connor) singing songs he wrote as an adult. In one single musical performance we see Elton John transform from a youth to an adult in a matter of seconds.
These time jumps are built around John's difficult relationship to his parents (played by Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh) which seems to be the source of many of his emotional problems later in life. The story is also built around his long term relationships with lyricist Bernie Taupin (played by Jamie Bell of “Jumper”) love interest Renate Blauel (Celinde Schoenmaker) and music manager John Reid (Richard Madden of “Cinderella”) among others.
Elton John's musical success is tied directly to the lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, which provide the inspiration for John's music. Their incredible musical partnership is on full display in this film. The fact that Taupin is heterosexual, while John is homosexual does cause some dramatic tension in the film, but their brotherly love for one another is the emotional bedrock of the story.
I did not know much about John's personal life before seeing this film. The biggest revelations for me were the fact that he was a childhood musical prodigy, and the difficult relationship he had with his parents. Most of the rest of John's life is an open book now. This warts-and-all biographical film is surprising in that this sort of film is usually made after the death of the person depicted. Elton Hercules John is still alive, and that says a lot about him, and where his head is at these days. After watching the film, it also seems amazing to me that he is still standing.
Taron Egerton and other actors in this film show themselves to be capable singers, and the musical numbers are excellent. The staging of those many musical numbers is often imaginative and sometimes quite surprising. This is far from being a stale, predictable musical and dramatic presentation. It is fresh, vibrant, informative, emotional and entertaining. This film rates a B.
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