Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Elton John is the latest on the gristmill of musical acts to be given the biopic treatment, and thanks to director Dexter Fletcher, he is the subject of one of the best to come out since La Vie En Rose. Told as a non-diegetic musical, where the characters actually perform the songs within their dramatic situation and not solely on concert stages or recording studios, this refreshing and captivating film presents a singing, dancing kunstlerroman of the early life of the famous singer, born Reggie Dwight in late-forties London. As a child, home life veers between drab and cruel as he watches the marriage between his emotionally stunted father ( ) and insensitive mother ( ) fall apart, saved solely by his musical talent and the kindness shown to him by his loving grandmother (a sparkling ). A musical scholarship and successful education is followed by him hitting the big city to make it as a songwriter, taking a meeting with a record producer who introduces him to a lyricist named Bernie Taupin ( ) with whom he will forge a lifelong friendship. When he is given the chance to sing his own songs, he runs with it, and almost from the start is a huge success (“Crocodile Rock” is one of the many brilliantly selected numbers for this breakthrough moment, a highlight in a film that is brimming over with them). Fame is soon the newly minted Elton John’s daily existence, but as his career grows and his wealth increases, he begins to enjoy the fruits of his labour a bit too much, ignoring the cruelty of his Svengali-like boyfriend ( ) by indulging in all manner of drinking and drugs and in doing so, risks losing it all. is wonderful in the lead role, impressively singing and dancing up a storm while never being less than endearing as a man whose need for love allows him to get lost so easily, but who also challenges himself to face his fears and conquer them whenever it really matters (most delightfully in a series of increasingly zany costumes). Howard is the only flaw in the cast, her accent isn’t consistent and she has to perform under some unfortunate age makeup near the end, but everything else about this movie’s charting of the singer’s foundation-building years is top flight.