Rocketman – Wish I Left Singing
After the excitement while watching Bohemian Rhapsody, we were ready to see Rocketman, the Paramount-produced Elton John story. We thought we would leave skipping and running to the car to listen to Elton’s (born Reginald Dwight) music. That we would carry that enthusiasm, not just that day, but for days. Elton John was a childhood favorite. I know the words to almost every song. Fun awaited.
Also, a childhood crush was Bernie Taupen; Elton John’s writing partner (I go for the sensitive, creative types. Chip, the scientist, is now cringing). Well, Rocketman was excellent, but it was a story with many tense moments and new learnings on Elton John. In fact the first speaking part of the movie has John in a meeting within his addict safety circle.
Give My Regards to Broadway
Before I go too far into the movie’s yays, I need to do one nay. The movie opens with a big chorus-type ensemble singing and dancing through a carnival. Not sure why they were at a carnival. To me, it was contrived and didn’t add value to the story or kickoff the main idea. As soon as I saw it, I thought, this was written to go to Broadway eventually.
This movie is kicking off a marketing, merchandising and licensing effort. Once I got passed that, I was able to enjoy the show. However, a few points in the movie, I said Well that costume will look good on stage.
Elton John Is a Musical Prodigy
Yes, Elton John is a rock genius, but he was a child prodigy; a true musical virtuoso. Starting from 3 years old, he could play any music he heard. No matter how complex the song was, he could play it in seconds.
This amazing talent won him a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music when he was 11. You’d have thought he’d have gone complex classical music, but nope.
At 11, I was playing badminton in my backyard with my brother’s friends. My piano teacher was not impressed in my choices over practice time.
The young actor, Kit Connor, played the young Elton. Not only was it great casting from a look-a-like perspective, but he had perfect pitch. When he sang, you’d be in awe. And, his voice is appropriately sweet. You feel the youth and innocence as well as loneliness and longing.
The Royal Academy of Music
… is a UK college with Undergraduate and Graduate programs.
The whole school only trains 700 students at a time. Their student body is from 50 different countries.
This is the best of the best internationally.
Elton John was 7 years younger than their first level students. No wonder he looked scared to death when he first arrived and was thrown immediately into his studies.
Our Rocketman Was Admittedly Gay From The Get Go
Because, he was married; I thought he realized his orientation during his marriage. Another thing I was wrong about is … I thought he was married to Kiki Dee. He was actually married to record producer, Renate Blauel. Throughout the movie, she is the only person who was shown in a single dimension. A kind person, who gave only love and support to John.
As soon as he began playing backup music around England, he was expressing his sexuality openly. Maybe not publicly, but openly.
I have seen many movies and shows with gay, likable characters.
In this movie, was the first time I ever saw a gay love scene equivalent to what you may see in the HBO versions of Sex in the City.
It was tasteful, meaningful and a needed part of the story to show the true intimacy of his relationship with Jack Reid.
It may have been done before, but I have never seen something like it. It was a breakthrough moment in film.
As my relatives in Italy say, “Love is just love.”
His Search for Love
Other than his grandmother, John’s family was disengaged and unemotional. The whole family lived practically on top of each other in a compressed two-story home. His mom flaunted her infidelity. John’s dad disappeared from time to time. When he was home he was cold, strict and stoic to the point that I wondered if he was sadistic. His dad remarried after his parents divorced. He had two sons and treated them with love and support. A shock and hard for John to accept.
All little Reg wanted was a hug from his dad and some non-gratuitous attention from his mom.
However, if John wrote a song, his grandmother thought it was fantastic and encouraged for him to play it when they were in pubs or other random places where there was a piano. John was frequently reluctant and sometimes ridiculed. More often than not, people came around.
Bernie Taupen – A Good Guy
A record talent scout and producer put an adv out looking for song writers. After some mixing and matching, the producer paired Taupen and John. They met for a bit in a coffee shop. During that long, exhilarating chat, they decided to write music together via mail. Bernie would send lyrics and John would immediately put them to music.
However, they did struggle some making their way. Someone suggested all the great writing pairs lived together. So they found a flat and immersed themselves in friendship and music.
Once their work got some traction, it became wild fire. They created a brotherhood. One of unconditional trust. This carried through their lives, rise to success, John’s overcoming addiction; and reuniting to write together to this day.
Watch the movie, you’ll probably agree, Taupen was the only normal person in his life.
Why Do Many Famous People Get Used
During the movie, John gives his trust to a man named John Reid. They were lovers for 5 years; then, client and manager. Reid became incredibly controlling of John. Almost to the point of isolation.
I wish I could remember how many stories exist like this. Someone gets famous and someone close to them isolates them and exploits them. Then, boom, the star sees the light and kicks the manager out in an abrupt action.
The theory I have is that gaining that level of fame is overwhelming. The star needs a buffer; space to breathe. This person creates a false safety.
Elton John was about every kind of addict you can be … alcoholic, drug, sex, eating, but not gambling.
Addiction was the anchor of the movie. All the stories bounce off his confessions in his addiction meetings.
The tongue-in-cheek part of the movie was how he would confess in a meeting something like …. Bernie and I never fought. Then they would show scenes of them disagreeing.
The songs also bounced off these stories; in many instances, it seems as if Taupen was writing his observations of what was happening in John’s life. Almost a passive way of giving him advice.
Although the songs are high-energy and his stage presence so elaborate, behind the glitz was a very different man with many struggles.
As the movie works it’s way through John’s young life to the present, you see this sadness and not a celebration of his success.
The Magic Ending
Because there was so much darkness in the Rocketman story, I couldn’t decide if I really liked Rocketman or not. It was a good story and I learned a lot about different lifestyles; music and loves.
However, all of a sudden you see a moment building and it happens. I won’t tell you what it was, but the whole story comes together in this one moment and event.
Then, I loved the movie; was touched by the story, felt sad that any human had to go through his challenges.
Usually, I have no problem telling the key moment of a movie, but this one is an experience. You have to see and feel it yourself.
Time to Sing
Rocketman is a surprise. But I don’t think it’s “going to be a long long time” until it goes to Broadway.
Oh … One Last Thing
When I was in junior high, I got the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album for my birthday. My brother took it and gave it to a girl he liked. I ran into her a few years ago; she still has it and offered it to me. I said thank you but she should keep it. That’s also been a long. long time.
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