“Rocketman” has seemed destined for awards love since “Bohemian Rhapsody” won four Academy Awards in February, and it ticked another box on the Oscars checklist this weekend. There were no empty seats at Saturday’s first Academy screening, and sources say Dexter Fletcher’s Elton John musical biopic received the first Oscar-voter seal of approval when Taron Egerton, the film’s star, earned a standing ovation when he appeared for a post-screening Q&A.
As a matter of course, most talent receives some applause at Academy screenings, so the ovation by no way guarantees a nomination come January 2020. (One witness remembered Michael Caine receiving similar adulation for his performance in Paolo Sorrentino’s 2015 “Youth,” which didn’t yield a nomination for the actor.)
Similar to the oft-reported lengths of standing ovations at the Cannes Film Festival (among others), it’s not surprising that Egerton garnered the ovation so much as it would have been a red flag had the response been more muted. Still, “Rocketman” has met or exceeded every requirement for an awards frontrunner so far, including the extra bit of love shown by Academy voters this weekend.
For one, it’s Fletcher’s follow-up to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which he stepped in to complete when the officially credited director, Bryan Singer, was fired. Though he received little official accolades for his work on the high-grossing, Oscar-winning Queen musical, the industry knows how much work he put into it.
More importantly, “Rocketman” is standing out on its own. Though it shares a genre and director with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Elton John musical received high praise out of Cannes — via a standing ovation for Egerton and solid reviews from critics — and has now performed well at the American box office. Its $25 million opening weekend is an impressive tally for an R-rated musical. (“Bohemian Rhapsody” was rated PG-13.) Both films also share dynamite lead performances, though Egerton actually singing for the film should help set him apart from the lip-syncing Rami Malek.
In her report following the film’s Cannes debut, IndieWire’s Anne Thompson said “Rocketman” should “dominate” the Golden Globes’ musical categories. Later, she emphasized that Egerton is a legitimate Best Actor contender, while Fletcher, Jamie Bell, and the film’s craft departments could all compete at the Oscars.
“Rocketman” is now playing nationwide.
Additional reporting by Anne Thompson.