I and my hubby very much enjoyed the movie ROCKETMAN. Unlike BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, the sexual subject matter in this film about talented gay performer and icon Elton John is not so sanitized.
The film is crafted in such a way as to tell a touching narrative, interwoven with imaginative musical numbers, about a musically gifted gay man born into a working class English family where the father is cold and unable to show love. This was likely in part due to the father’s being traumatized during WW II, though the movie only hints at this. The mother presents as self-absorbed and immature. Only the live-in grandmother provides Reginald Dwight (Elton’s actual birth name) with some nurturance and acceptance of him and his musical genius.
Actor Taron Egerton, star of the 2014 block buster KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, earns his stripes here as a truly mature, competent actor in the title role. As gay men, my husband and I found ourselves relating to the main character, especially in his childhood years. The life themes of running away from who one truly is and what one actually feels are presented colorfully and insightfully in ROCKETMAN. In Mr. John’s case, classic avoidance strategies of heavy substance abuse and being hyper-sexual are creatively explored, with the latter of the two showcased in a long, orgiastic dream-like sequence inside a big discotheque setting. To my recollection, no full nudity is shown, but the power of the action and message was not diminished for me. I was prepared for the one intimate sex scene between Elton and his first male long-term partner to be cut down to nothing but, say, a few heavy kisses in a darkened room. It was pleasantly surprising to see that was not the case. Having read some months back that a sex scene was going to be cut from the movie, I’m left wondering just how much filmed footage was deleted. Regardless, at least skin-to-skin passion is effectively, tastefully conveyed within the action that remains in the final product. It is likely that Elton John himself, acting as executive director, ensured this to be the case.
What moved me to tears is how the movie both artfully and psychologically conveys Elton John ultimately accepting himself, this, of course, being at the very core of his recovery from substance dependence and sexual addiction. In a clever interweaving of the past and present, the narrative makes use of an effective psychotherapy approach I myself utilize called Internal Family Systems (IFS). Other therapies employ similar techniques, but I credit writer Lee Hall and director Dexter Fletcher for integrating these inner healing steps so naturally and believably in the film. And all done with Elton John’s blessing.
The quest to find and accept one’s true self as a means of achieving full mental, emotional, and spiritual maturity or health is a timeless story, told in many ways over and over again. ROCKETMAN does well by this ancient narrative, keeping it fresh, creative, and imaginative yet rooted in reality all at once– no small feat. This is a fun, sometimes painful to watch, but ultimately uplifting movie.