From his rise to fame to his unprecedented superstardom, rock ‘n’ roll icon Elvis Presley maintains a complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker, over the course of 20 years. Central to Presley’s journey and happiness is one of the most influential people in his life — Priscilla.
“There’s a lot of people saying a lot of things, but in the end you gotta listen to yourself.”
Elvis Presley is one of the most iconic figures in American history. It was always going to take someone truly bold to tackle his story. First it was John Carpenter, the legend, in the late 70’s and now we have Baz Luhrmann, the definition of a stylist taking on The King of Rock. To do this he had numerous people audition for the main role, such as: Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, and Harry Styles, but landed on former Disney star Austin Butler. So to have Baz’s style infused with the emergence of Butler, and the idea of Tom Hanks in a fat suit gave people unease when this was announced. And then it got a 12 minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, and the narrative shifted to this might be a masterpiece. As with everything like that, it lands somewhere in the middle, as it has extremely great moments, but has aspects to it that are completely head scratching.
I do not need to tell you the story of Elvis, that has been documented in media ad nauseam. What I want to talk about is the music Biopic in general and its place in cinema. We have seen so many of these over the years, and the ongoing theme in all of them is the star rises, a manager gloms onto them and ruins them, then star has a semi redemption moment, then usually dies. Elvis does not reinvent that wheel at all, and I do find it interesting people are still interested in these movies after we have seen RAY, WALK THE LINE, the satirical WALK HARD, ROCKETMAN, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, RESPECT, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, GET ON UP, and on and on. But, Elvis was Elvis so of course people will be interested in seeing how he rose from a mostly black inspired community, to change the way people looked at musicians.
As far as the technical aspects, Luhrmann is a madman with his editing. He does not stay on a shot for more than 2 seconds maybe in the entire 3 hour movie. The music scenes are all shot really energetically and capture the phenomenon of Elvis, but there are times in this movie you just feel sick from all of the cuts. Also, Luhrmann loves using modern day rap music in scenes, and even though it brings the energy up, it completely takes you out of the movie in my opinion. But, like I said, when Butler is up there just doing his thing with Luhrmann staging it, it is electric.
Stock Up – Austin Butler
He was fun in a small role in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, but he completely transformed in this movie. He sang all the young Elvis stuff and is phenomenal, but his dancing, the voice, and his charisma absolutely carry this whole movie. It is no wonder he has started getting more jobs right away, because he clearly has the IT factor. I cannot wait to see him in DUNE PART II.
Stock Neutral – Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks stock is not going anywhere, but it is not a stretch to say he is awful in this movie. His accent is terrible, and he looks completely ridiculous in his fat suit. For me nothing about the performance worked, and to make things worse he narrated the movie and it was all from his perspective. So you really just could not get away from it.
*A couple other tidbits
- Kelvin Harrison Jr. was great as usual as B.B. King.
- The movie career of Elvis basically being skipped over was really disappointing.
- Olivia DeJonge had nothing to do really as Priscilla, but still made an impression.
This movie is crazy and is very much a Baz Luhrmann movie. If you like his stuff you will like it, if you do not you may be worn out only an hour into it. Austin Butler though makes it worthwhile with an incredible portrayal of an icon.
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