Several top-tier critics attended Thursday night’s gala premiere of Dexter Fletcher‘s Rocketman, the Elton John musical biopic, and their reviews began to pop just before 2 am Cannes time. I’ve read four or five so far, and the general verdict seems to be that it’s less interested in rock biopic realism (i.e., who John actually was and how he found his voice) and more interested in selling the flamboyant glam aspects of John’s early career.
In short, Rocketman sounds (and please stop me if you think I’m overdoing it here) like an Elton John flick for simpletons — for superficial minds, the easily impressed and your none-too-hip iTunes purchasers of one of John’s greatest hits albums.
I’m alluding to people who associate Elton more with his having sung the Lady Diana version of “Candle in the Wind” or perhaps for his Ceasar’s Palace gigs in Las Vegas than, say, his first serious industry gig at West Hollywood’s Troubadour in August ’70, or for his legendary, self-named 1970 debut album or the equally great “Honky Chateau” (’72).
Before I post a couple of review excerpts, I want HE regular Bobby Peru to consider the following line from Peter Debruge’s Variety review, to wit: “It’s Taron Egerton’s voice doing most of the singing here. He’s solid, but he’s no match for Elton’s pipes.”
HE to Debruge: No shit?
Another Debruge line: “Rocketman isn’t really about Elton as a musician.”
TheWrap‘s Steve Pond: “Bohemian Rhapsody acted like a standard biopic with concert and recording scenes thrown in, [but] Rocketman takes a wilder, bolder approach: It’s a full-fledged musical, using dozens of Elton John songs to tell his life story in a way that freely mixes reality and fantasy.
“This is a jukebox musical for the big screen, Mamma Mia! forced into a vaguely biographical form or one of the Broadway shows that use an artist’s music to tell their story, among them Jersey Boys and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”
“But it’s about Elton John, so that means it’s bigger, wilder, more extravagant and more excessive than those works. Sometimes that means it’s more fun, too, but it can also be a melodramatic slog when it’s not embracing the craziness of its musical numbers. And some of those numbers, to be honest, are far more diverting than others.
“As someone who hated Bohemian Rhapsody‘s factual errors, I can respect a biopic that announces from the start that it’s not to be taken seriously as an account of what actually happened. So while I struggled with a narrative that uses songs years before they were written, I know the rules of this particular game == and if what we see onscreen has a little crazy poetry in it, and it captures a bit of how things might have felt to Elton way back when, that’s all that matters.”
Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn in a review titled “Elton John Biopic Is a Cheesy Jukebox Musical“: “In Rocketman, John’s life is presented as a jukebox musical variation on “A Christmas Carol,” with John traveling through the bumpier chapters of his life to comprehend how he got here.
“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. It’s not the warts-and-all chronicle that marketing hype might suggest, but it provides enough space to let John’s art speak for itself.”
Hollywood Elsewhere will see Rocketman Friday morning at 11 am, and post something in the afternoon.