PG Score: 8.25/10
Elvis was released in theaters on 6/24/22
The highest selling solo artist of all time, a man who combined white country music with Southern gospel and the blues, frightened the establishment and politicians across the country when he introduced his music to the world, and showed that black and white can integrate successfully. This is Elvis. Director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) puts together an epic biographical film that dives deep into the life and death of Elvis Presley.
Butler and Hanks
Starring Austin Butler (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) as Elvis and Tom Hanks (Big) as his manager Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis is a career-maker for Butler. He managed to encapsulate the youthful energy that Elvis had for music and life. He also did an exceptional job with his transition into a worn down and troubled soul who battled drug abuse and loneliness when he wasn’t up on stage. Hanks showed up in a big way and turned in his best performance in years as the manipulative manager that rode Elvis to the top and made himself essential to the King, while doing his best to keep others away from the megastar. Hanks balances charming and slimy conman extremely well. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with a nomination for best supporting actor.
Luhrmann unfolds Elvis in interesting fashion. Narrated throughout by Hanks’s Parker, he makes interesting cuts and scene transition choices that jump back and forth in time. This allows us to see where a young Elvis discovered his love of music, along with his big break on the radio that drew him to the attention of Col. Parker. The film has great music and doesn’t shy away from showing that a lot of Elvis’s big hits came from the artists of Beale Street, who couldn’t make an impact due to the color of their skin. Beale Street in Memphis had a who’s who of future stars (such as B.B. King and Little Richard) who were all inspired by what they heard. It was this music that helped change and influence American culture.
Gladys and Priscilla
From the get-go it is made evident how pivotal a role Elvis’s family played in his life. His mom, Gladys Presley (Helen Thompson), is the centerpiece of the family and a pillar of support for Elvis. Like her son would eventually combat, she battled her own demons and her death plays a major part in Col. Parker’s ability to manipulate and control Elvis. This death and Col. Parker’s plan to separate Elvis from any other influences led him to the service, where he met the love of his life, Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge). A breakout role for the young actress, she does well capturing a young woman in love in the early part of their marriage, to the wife struggling to cope with her husband’s addiction issues, along with his adulterous activities while raising their daughter.
Well Worth the Price of Admission
Elvis isn’t a perfect film. Though there are few flaws, the length is probably the biggest hurdle that needs to be overcome. There are some slight issues with the pacing. The first and last act move along nicely as strong bookends of the film, but the second act tapers off a bit and slows the film down more unnecessarily. Should that deter you from seeing Elvis? NO. If you are a fan of musical bios, this is a must-see. Great acting, an American icon, and great music. Make sure to check it out.