Elton John has done loads of drugs: whole extended train rails and billowing clouds of them. He says as much in new film Rocketman – or at least his character played by Taron Egerton does, when, at an AA meeting, he opens with: “I’m Elton Hercules John and I’m an alcoholic, cocaine addict, sex addict, bulimic, shopaholic…” and so the list goes on, referencing weed, psychedelics and benzos.
This AA meeting is where the film kicks off, where it ends, and how it’s anchored, returned to again and again as Egerton brings us onto the fast-paced merry-go-round-ride that is our John’s life. And by telling the story in such a way, going from pivotal life moment and then back to AA room, director Dexter Fletcher gives us an insight into how childhood and early life trauma can lead to addiction, and how one of the first steps toward recovery is to love and accept your younger self. Hearing from a therapist, and reading work by a childhood development physician beyond the film itself, I learn of a complex portrait that doesn’t offer any easy answers on the link between early life and later addiction. But Rocketman still deftly portrays Fletcher (and, to an extent, John’s) chosen narrative.