When you think of the Cannes Film Festival, words like glitter, glamour, well-respected directors and the more ‘niche’ films pop up. What probably didn’t come to mind are films such as “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “Pulp Fiction” despite the fact those movies were also screened in Cannes (respectively in 2018 and in 1994).
“Once upon a time… in Hollywood” is still to come but the other ‘popular’ film “Rocketman” got its world premiere already. Wonder why a film about the music legend Sir Elton John made it into Cannes? Well, because director Dexter Fletcher (“Eddie the Eagle”, “Sunshine on Leith”) made from this biopic/fantasy a vibrant, wild and musically top both one led by an outstanding Taron Egerton.
At this moment, Sir Elton John is touring around the world with his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour but let’s take you back to the very beginning. To the time when he was just Reginald “Reggie” Dwight.
Ever since he was little, there was the love for piano but coming from a broken family doesn’t make it easy to pursue a career in music. However, a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music is going to change the life of young Reggie completely as a music world is about the open for him.
Flash forward to his twenties: Reggie changed his name to Elton John, just got signed at a large record label, is working together with a young and promising songwriter called Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and is about to play multiple sold-out gigs at The Troubadour in West Hollywood.
Saying that his musical career is skyrocketing would be an understatement. His personal life is also flourishing: Discovering his new flamboyant identity and finding the love of his life John Reid (Richard Madden).
Nothing seems impossible to reach: The fame, the lifestyle, the money, and the love. But we all know that happiness can as go as quickly as it came.
What seemed to be real love was just for the show and the success comes with too many drugs, too much booze, and sex and Elton’s relationship with friends and family is at risk.
Will the eccentric musician crumble under all of the pressure or will his passion for music get him back on his feet?
Well based on the fact that Sir Elton sold over more than 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists in the world, you know that he conquered his demons and now he has been sober for more than 27 years now.
That’s actually the element that starts this film. Him, or rather Taron Egerton, opening up about the abuse, the trouble and the dark times in his life during a group therapy session.
It wasn’t only about the drinks and the pills but also about the love and the search for that. It was mentioned multiple times in the movie that Elton would never be truly loved because of his peculiar lifestyle and his sexual orientation but his relationship with husband David Furnish proves totally otherwise.
During the Cannes Film Festival, Egerton mentioned that there are elements of fantasy in the film and that they took some license with the truth. Doesn’t matter which elements happened or which were made up: The life of Sir Elton John has been an intense rollercoaster so far in which highs and lows are constantly alternating.
What’s also constantly changing are the flashy, exuberant and versatile costumes. We don’t know how the costume trailer for this film must have looked like but it certainly was packed with sparkling outfits, tons of accessories and a wig or two.
Starting with a grandiose orange devilish outfit to a dungaree full of stars to high heels with wings. Even the fashionistas amongst us are going to be jealous when seeing all this glitz.
Of course, his signature trademark, the glasses, come in every shape, colour, and size you can ever think off. When the credits of this film are rolling, some footage of the films is being compared to the real-life events and the resemblance between Egerton and Sir Elton is uncanny. Massive congratulations to Julian Day (“Bohemian Rhapsody“, “Rush”) and his costume team.
While costumes are incredibly important to put on the best show ever stage, stage presence is even more crucial.
Knowing that must have put on more pressure on the shoulders from both Pippa Ailion and Reg Poerscout-Edgerton. With Egerton, who worked with director Fletcher during “Eddie The Eagle”, they chose the perfect lead.
Unlike in other biopics, there would be no place for playback or mimicking and so it was a relief to hear him sing in his own voice. He definitely knows how to sing, how to play music and if you put him in one of those dazzling outfits, Sir Elton John is being transported onto the screen instantly. Egerton’s performance is out of this world, just like the ball he hits during the Dodger stadium scene.
Of course, this is not a one-man show. Both Jamie Bell (“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”, “Skin”) and Richard Madden (“The Bodyguard” (TV series), “Oasis”) are putting on very strong performances too.
Bell as the caring, loving and musically gifted Bernie who has seen Elton during both the highs and lows. Especially that “I love you but just not in that way” scene is one of the many brilliant Bell-Egerton moments.
If you thought that Madden had a very bad-ass attitude around him during “The Bodyguard”, then wait until you’ve seen him in this.
With a pitch-black wig, he brings both darkness and light to Elton’s life as John Reid and gives an extremely high rock ‘n roll vibe to this film. Who knew he could sing like that.
There’s also room for wonder women such as Bryce Dallas Howard (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom“, “Gold“) and Gemma Jones (“You, Me and Him”, “God’s Own Country) who play Reggie’s mother and grandmother with a lot of emotion and finesse.
After the world premiere in Cannes, emotions ran extremely high. Both the audience, who gave “Rocketman” a standing ovation a director could only dream off, as well as everyone involved in making the film, was moved to the tears.
This newest work of Fletcher clearly has an impact and it’s not that hard to guess why. “Rocketman” is an absolutely thrilling, energetic and entertaining biopic/fantasy with a musically top-notch Taron Egerton.
22nd May 2019
THE QUICK SELL
A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John's breakthrough years