TURNS OUT SIR Elton John, deep down, is an eminently relatable guy.
“Rocketman,” which I just experienced at the Starlight Room in Port Townsend, is both phantasmagoria and universal narrative.
I admit I can’t look at the man’s story objectively. His songs — 45 rpm records of “Crocodile Rock,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “The Bitch Is Back” — are engraved on my temporal lobes.
All actor Taron Egerton had to do was start “Your Song,” and I was a done deal.
Yet “Rocketman” is no jukebox musical. It’s studded with about two dozen of Elton’s 57 hit songs; they’re interwoven and performed by Egerton, so the movie crosses over to rock opera and back again.
Along the way, the picture reveals what matters in the story of how Reginald Dwight became Elton John. When we first meet Reggie, he’s the child of cold parents, growing up in a house where everybody is starved for love and affection.
Music — the piano — opens our boy up. At age 11 he wins a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music; a decade hence he finds his voice, flies to America, plays the Troubadour in West Hollywood.
One of the many dreamy scenes happens that fate-sealing night: Terrorized at first, he plunges into “Crocodile Rock,” and the next thing we know, the room has filled up with magic.
I’ve never seen Elton live, but I’ve been at many a show — the Who and Bruce Springsteen spring to mind — where our minds were blown and our bodies levitated.
Caveat emptor: In this movie, historical accuracy doesn’t get in the way of the fabulousness. Fact-checkers at RollingStone.com, bless their hearts, note that the songs are out of chronological order, as are the liaisons and love affairs.
Writer Andy Greene also declares that none of this matters. “Rocketman” is no documentary, people.
In a work of journalism I want my facts straight; in a film fantasy I want a wild ride.
There’s heartrending relationship stuff here too. In his quest for love from family, friends and lovers, Elton is rebuffed and rejected too many times.
It is Bernie Taupin, the lyric genius, who sticks by him. Actor Jamie Bell hits all the right notes as his friend of 50 years.
The costumes and the over-the-top eyeglasses are key cast members. We see Elton attending a group therapy session — for alcohol and other drug problems, shopping addiction, anger management, take your pick — wearing a resplendent number. It’s a orange-red rooster-devil-Birdman getup that looks wretchedly uncomfortable and perfectly fit at the same time.
And don’t we all put on costumes, disguises when we go out into the world? It’s just that most of us haven’t the budget for Elton-level finery.
Unlike so many stories of rock and pop stars, this has a happy ending. Elton, now 72, got clean and sober many years ago, and has been married to his longtime love, David Furnish, since 2014 when England and Wales legalized same-sex marriage.
The couple are coproducers of “Rocketman,” and beheld the movie at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Taupin was there too, of course.
Here at the Starlight Room — and at the main Rose Theatre, where “Rocketman” is also playing, the host introduces the movie by reading a quotation from Elton himself. For me it summed up the coexistence of art, history, love and music.
The point of this movie, Elton said in The Guardian newspaper of London, was “to make something that was like my life: Chaotic, funny, mad, horrible, brilliant and dark.
“It’s obviously not all true. But it’s the truth.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.
Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be June 19.
Reach her at [email protected]