If you’re thinking that this might have come along just a bit too soon after Bohemian Rhapsody (the apotheosis of pop stars can be tiring, can it not?), you might note that director Dexter Fletcher took over at the helm of the Queen movie after Bryan Singer was sacked, so the there is a sense of continuity. I enjoyed this one more for the simple reason that I like Elton’s songs better, and they are incorporated into the screenplay in the style of an old-fashioned musical. The chronology is at first confusing – Saturday Night’s Alright is heard when Elton the boy sits at a piano before drinkers in a pub and then moves on to a thrillingly choreographed fairground scene – but you soon grasp that the songs are cherry-picked to suit the moment. It is a warts’n’all portrait of Elton, beginning when he checks into a rehab clinic (1990) and deals in flashback with his rise to fame and his struggles with his addictions to drugs, alcohol, and sex. Elton’s parents – his mother in particular (Bryce Dallas Howard ) – do not come out of the history looking good, but there is never the sense that Elton’s problems have entirely arisen owing to anybody else but himself. The segue from Elton sitting in drunken isolation in the bedroom of his LA mansion while a party is going on downstairs, via his near drowning to his appearance on stage wearing a sequinned baseball outfit is superb, as is the use of Yellow Brick Road, in which career-long collaborator Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) sings. In the title role, Taron Egerton is never quite tubby enough and if his resemblance to Elton does not quite fit the bill at first, by the end of the show he has grown into the part and is utterly convincing. The mea culpa at the close (‘I have resented so much that just doesn’t matter’) and the affectionate acknowledgement of Taupin is extremely touching and, although there was no room for Daniel (a personal fave), I loved it.
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