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Rocketman (2019)Rocketman (2019)

The most important thing to know about this biopic about Reginald Kenneth Dwight (born 1947)—Sir Elton John—is that it was produced by his husband David Furnish (a film maker) and that John himself was one of the executive producers. We can imagine, then, that every last detail in the film has John's seal of approval — director Dexter Fletcher, the script by Lee Hall, the sound track and its arrangements of twenty-two of John's hits, the casting, the choreography, the cinematography, the production design, the editing, etc. I especially liked the mixed genres of straight forward narrative, musical, documentary, and magical realism. In the first minute of the movie, John, dressed in a flamboyant orange devil suit with huge wings and horns, walks into an AA meeting of circled chairs and announces, "My name is Elton, and I'm an alcoholic, a cocaine addict, and a sex addict. I'm bulimic. I also have problems with shopping." By repeatedly cutting back to this first scene, it's made clear that this is John's story of redemption, not just from substance abuses, but from the wounds of an emotionally distant nuclear family that did not know how to love a young gay child who was also a musical prodigy, aggravated by global fame, money, debauchery, and corruption when he was only twenty-five. The movie ends in that same AA circle, with the appearances of all the key players in his life, and John making his peace about his personal identity.  And thank God he survived; he and his lifelong lyricist Bernie Taupin produced 30 albums and 300 million records. A note at the end of the movie says that John has been sober for over twenty-eight years, and that he has raised $450 million for his HIV-AIDS foundation. This film premiered at the 2019 Cannes film festival.

Dan Clendenin:

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