If ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ were the cheeseburger of music icon biopics, then ‘Rocketman’ is the sirloin steak – with lobster on the side.” – Dan Wooton, The Sun
Judging from the dazzling reception from the notoriously tough crowd that attends the Cannes International Film Festival, the first true Oscar-worthy film of 2019 has landed. “Rocketman,” the tune-filled Elton John biopic with fantastical touches received a boisterous 4-minute standing ovation after having its world premiere out of competition on the French Rivera.
Given that it is directed by Dexter Fletcher, who also took over the reins of last year’s musical ode to another British pop superstar and gay icon Freddie Mercury, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” after original helmer Bryan Singer was fired, the critics couldn’t help but compare the two. And, as the quote above suggests, “Rocketman” is a far superior cut of meaty truth-based cinema that currently has a 94% fresh Rotten Tomatoes score.
The most glowing notices were for the film’s leading man, Taron Egerton, who was teary-eyed alongside Elton John, the troubled musical genius he was portraying and who is one of the movie’s producers. The two hugged on stage as the credits rolled and the applause swelled. Here are a few:
“He does a fine job that isn’t an imitation. (If it were, it wouldn’t be a good one – he does the songs well without capturing the specific tone of Elton’s voice.)” – Steve Pond, The Wrap
“Not only does he have Elton’s look and mannerisms down to an uncanny degree, he also taps into his signature showmanship to give a performance that’s as at peace with its own preposterousness as, say, Jane Russell’s in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.’ ” – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
One difference between “Rhapsody,” which was nominated for Best Picture and earned its star Rami Malek a lead-actor Academy Award, and “Rocketman” is that the story of Sir Elton is quite open about not being a strictly factual account as it spirals into the realm of the surreal at times. The typical reaction:
“Sure, Elton John purists will be here until Christmas pointing out the flaws in the chronology and the liberties taken with real-life events, but they’ll be doing it dancing in the aisles.” – Phil de Semlyen, Time Out
Where it might be more honest, given its R rating as opposed to “Rhapsody’s” PG-13, is its depiction of John’s gay encounters and lifestyle. One reaction:
“Explores Elton’s sexuality with a highly charged scene between Elton and his first manager John Reid…It would be foolish not to claim that as one of the highlights.” – Halina Watts, The Daily Mirror
There were some more subdued reactions. As Peter Bradshaw writes in The Guardian: “Taron Egerton gamely does a middleweight impersonation, more comfortable with the lighter side: better at the tiaras than the tantrums,” Eric Kohn of IndieWire subbed Egerton’s performance “a sufficient impersonation” that “occasionally veers into a goofy caricature.”
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The ticket-buying public will chime in soon enough. Fandango is sponsoring an early screening of “Rocketman” this Saturday before its nationwide opening on May 31.
Others took to Twitter to express their thoughts and share moments from the premiere:
I’m not an objective viewer but I really enjoyed #Rocketman. It’s a lovely tribute to Elton’s partnership with Bernie & the fantastical tone suits his life perfectly. Oscar chances hinge on reviews & biz, but as a true musical it’s a great bet for picture & actor at the Globes. pic.twitter.com/e1AlNsqfvf
— Dave Karger (@davekarger) May 16, 2019
Dexter Fletcher’s sexy dramatic and poignant Rocketman is an ambitious full-on bio musical with 20 songs—This Is Your Song got applause— sung by star Taron Egerton in a breakout performance. Watch for it to follow boffo global box office with a run on a roadway!
— Anne Thompson (@akstanwyck) May 16, 2019
Elton and Taron singing #Rocketman pic.twitter.com/AtmoLXgB0D
— Rebecca Keegan (@ThatRebecca) May 16, 2019