Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of Elton John Musical Biopic, ROCKETMAN?
Taron Egerton stars as Elton John, from his days at the Royal Academy of Music to his RISE in the rock 'n' roll scene of the 1970s and '80s and his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction in the '90s to international superstardom. Dexter Fletcher will direct.
The film hits theaters on May 31, 2019, but it just recently premiered at Cannes 2019. Let's see what the critics are saying!
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: Rocketman is a sucrose-enriched biopic-slash-jukebox-musical hybrid which sometimes feels like it should be on the Broadway or London West End stage - and very possibly will. Sometimes the songs are woven realistically into the action, with Elton performing one of his nuclear-payload belters live on stage, or sometimes musingly trying out a song on the keyboard, giving us all goosebumps as we recognise a prototype of Candle in the Wind. But sometimes the songs are part of a fantasy sequence, choreographed in such a way as takes us close to Lloyd Webber territory.
Peter Debruge, Variety: For a project willed into existence by stage husband David Furnish, and approved by exec producer Elton John himself, this framing device represents a calculated attempt at candor. It's "Billy Elliot" screenwriter Lee Hall's way of signaling that this carefully vetted, fully authorized biography wants to be seen as a warts-and-all portrait. Though the film makes jokes about Elton's sausage fingers and thinning hair - further cues that "Rocketman" isn't meant to be seen as a vanity project - Egerton effectively plays him as that rarest of movie archetypes: a gay sex symbol. As such, can its much-touted love scene truly be considered gratuitous when an entire community has been so underrepresented in the arena of studio-sanctioned snogging?
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times: What you may not always anticipate is the wit and imagination of the staging, the way the script repurposes some of those John-Taupin hits to underscore crucial dramatic moments. "Honky Cat" is reborn as an anthem of celebrity greed, "Bennie and the Jets" as a song of hedonist excess. The conceit of performing "Rocket Man" at the bottom of John's swimming pool achieves a gorgeous lyricism that Fletcher pulls back from too soon. Given the endlessness of the offerings, it's understandable that the movie has to make do with excerpts, but you always want more of the music rather than less.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: The title of Rocketman is appropriate in that this boldly unconventional portrait of Elton John - charting the parallel tracks of his meteoric rise to superstardom and his simultaneous descent into an abyss of loneliness and addiction - has a spectacular launch, all engines blazing. It's mid-flight that narrative shortcomings start to kick in, with a succession of surreally stylized musical fantasy sequences that are fabulously entertaining but too seldom allow for the kind of substantial dramatic connective tissue that would invite real emotional involvement with the protagonist. It's largely to the credit of star Taron Egerton, who leans fearlessly into the role's wild excesses, that the movie remains airborne.
Steve Pond, The Wrap: It's all grand and fun and corny, a musical fantasy that reaches for the sky and gets there often enough to make it diverting but also frustrating. The recent years have seen a number of affecting indie musicals, from John Carney's "Once" and "Sing Street" to the upcoming "Blinded by the Light," and "Rocketman" is bigger and bolder than that - so big and bold, perhaps, that it can be harder to find the heart.
Robbie Collin, Telegraph: Dexter Fletcher's fabulous Elton John musical is a heart-racing, toe-tapping, all-glitter-cannons-blazing triumph on its own terms - but because of its subject matter and crowd-pleasing approach, the early reviews will almost certainly compare it to Bryan Singer's Freddie Mercury wiki-biopic.
Eric Kohn, IndieWire: Above all, it's a snazzy, overproduced vessel for the songs, as Taron Egerton gives the karaoke performance of his life in a sufficient impersonation of a very familiar face. Rather than revealing much about the man behind the music, "Rocketman" seems more content to hover inside of it, exploring his unique synthesis of blues, rock, and every other relevant genre as a natural extension of his personality.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily: A rock star origin story that flaunts its hero's superpowers as if he were the newest member of the Avengers, Rocketman is shameless in its ambitions to crown Elton John as one of music's greatest artists, most fascinating figures and saddest souls. Taron Egerton gives everything to his portrayal of the man born Reginald Dwight, including singing the Pop titan's many indelible hits, and director Dexter Fletcher pulls out all the stops for a biopic that boldly tries to reimagine Elton classics as elaborate musical numbers that reveal clues to his psyche. Clearly taking a page from Elton's lavish costumes, Rocketman does nothing in half measures, but the overkill, and the narrative predictability, eventually just becomes overwhelming.
Geoffrey Macnab, Independent: At times, Rocketman risks turning into a chronicle of woe. Much of the film focuses on the years when Elton was abusing alcohol and drugs. He was miserable in his own life and took out his unhappiness on those closest to him. This doesn't make him very good company. His behaviour is brattish and self-indulgent. It can become tiresome to hear him say yet again how much he hates himself. However, Fletcher films even the darkest scenes in a very flamboyant fashion and manages to leaven matters with some ironic humour.
Phil de Semlyen, TimeOut: Taking the old-fashioned highs of an MGM musical and pairing them with the deep lows of an addiction drama, Rocketman is a turbo-charged rock fantasia that pushes hard against the boundaries of the medium as it zips through the first four decades of Elton John's life. The songs explode from the screen, time jumps catapult the story forward with exhilarating élan and even the emotional stuff lands, for the most part. 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.