The Biggest Highs and Lows From Cannes 2019 (So Far)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures/ANDREW COOPER

The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival hasn’t included too many movie stars — yet. But festivalgoers were able to come face-to-face with zombies, Elton John singing on the beach and Robert Pattinson going full Method actor. Here are the six biggest highs and lows from the French Riviera so far.

1. Elton John Feels the Love
“Rocketman,” a musical biopic about Elton John starring Taron Egerton, received a five-minute standing ovation after its debut on May 16. The star of the film was instantly crowned an awards-season favorite for 2019; Egerton started to tear up as the crowd at the Palais showered him with applause. And there was plenty more cheering directed at John, who donned a tuxedo with a glittering brooch shaped like a rocket and the title to his famous song stitched in sparkles on the back of his jacket.

After the film ended, hundreds migrated to Carlton Beach for an after-party that included a surprise performance. “When I watch the movie, I don’t see an actor,” said John, seated at a piano. “I see myself. And that is an extraordinary thing for an actor to do.” He invited Egerton onstage to belt out a rendition of “Rocket Man.” If the movie performs at the box office like “Bohemian Rhapsody” did, expect a sparkling Oscar campaign — with more singing.

2. More Awards Buzz
Pattinson and his co-star Willem Dafoe both received raves for “The Lighthouse,” a claustrophobic black-and-white thriller set in a remote lighthouse. Pedro Almodóvar delivered his best-reviewed film in years with “Pain and Glory,” which should score him a ticket to the Oscars in the best international feature film category. Amazon Studios spent big on the low-budget “Les Misérables,” a ripped-from-the-headlines look at police brutality in Paris. The streaming giant is already mapping out an awards campaign for the French-language film.

3. Representation Matters
A hot-button issue at Cannes has been conversation surrounding representation. One year after the festival signed the 5050×2020 Pledge, a vow to include more films from female directors and crews in its programming, there were almost daily discussions about how much work still needed to be done. Oscar winner Julianne Moore came out in favor of quotas during a talk at the festival. “I believe in trying to level the playing field for everybody regardless of their gender or their culture or ethnicity,” she said. “You have to open doors.”

4. It’s the End of the World as We Know It
Paramount Pictures shelled out $40 million for “Down Under Cover,” a buddy comedy starring Chris Hemsworth and Tiffany Haddish. Fox Searchlight splurged a reported $12 million to $14 million on Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” an English- and German-language film set during World War II. But aside from that, the dealmaking has been slow. One big offering was a reminder of the kinds of movies Hollywood doesn’t make as much anymore. Director Roland Emmerich came to Cannes to pitch his $150 million spectacle “Moonfall,” a disaster movie about the moon crashing into the Earth (à la the asteroid making landfall in “Armageddon”).

5. Zombies Are DOA
This year’s opening-night film, Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die” brought Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Selena Gomez to Cannes. But the zombie movie laced with art-house touches suffered terrible reviews and tepid applause at its May 14 premiere.

6. Dude, Where’s My Stars?
Cannes has always boasted the most glamorous red carpet in the world. But other than this year’s festival jury — which includes Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Elle Fanning — there have only been scattered A-list sightings at premieres and after-parties. Some grumbled about the festival’s decision, for the second year in a row, to ban Netflix from participating, to appease French theater owners’ demand that all films in the festival get theatrical distribution.

But one thing is for sure: There will be many oohs and aahs when Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” starring two little-known actors named Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, premieres on May 21. Sony Pictures, which is releasing the film, hopes that lightning will strike again for Tarantino in the south of France, after he unveiled “Pulp Fiction” here 25 years ago.