It goes all-in on the foolproof chemistry, at the expense of everything else. We know from Thor: Ragnarok and the subsequent Avengers pow-wows how well Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson can spar, but their partnership only takes a film so far when the script’s in freefall and nothing else seems to have a stake.
A midnight-movie, exploitation-savvy version of this film, with Spencer chewing up the scenery like nobody’s business, might feasibly have been a camp classic. But this is Tate Taylor’s version: too nervous to thrill, too daft to upset anyone, and constantly policing how much fun it lets Spencer have.
Luckily, Wilde has brought together a pair of stars whose joy in each other’s company is impossible not to relish, and their chemistry just goofing around reaches Tina-Fey-and-Amy-Poehler levels of inspired fizz.
There’s a gleeful toxicity here that will launch a thousand think-pieces – Pitt’s character is capital-P problematic, absolutely by design – but the transgressive thrill is undeniable, and the artistry mesmerisingly assured.
Not only does Egerton have Elton’s look and mannerisms down to an uncanny degree, he also musters up enough of his subject’s signature showmanship to give a performance that’s joyously at peace with its own preposterousness.
This is a winningly eccentric film, as attuned in its own way to the rhythms of ordinary life as Jarmusch and Driver’s (even better) 2016 feature Paterson. But there is a pessimism gnawing away in its gut that can’t be laughed off.
The switch from male to female leads has been done with so little apparent regard for how it might actually affect the plot that entire tracts of the film, including its finale, now land like poorly tossed pancakes.