Elvis is a musical biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann, who co-wrote the screenplay with Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce, and Jeremy Doner for Warner Bros. Pictures. It had a successful wide release before heading to HBO Max.
Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) hears a young Elvis Pressley (Austin Butler) perform at a hayride. After seeing the impact Elvis has on the audience, he convinces the young singer to let him be his manager while his father Vernon Pressley (Richard Roxburgh) will handle the business side. After his dancing is attacked by a bureaucrat, he goes overseas to join the Army but his mother Gladys (Helen Thomson) dies. Heartbroken, he soon finds solace while in love with Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge). His career has ups and downs, but he soon makes a comeback. Little does he know that Parker is using him as a payday and continues to sink his claws deeper into Elvis’ pocketbook.
One thing I cannot complain about, it is not woke. The movie does highlight the racial issues of the day, primarily through B.B. King, played brilliantly by Kelvin Harrison Jr., but in the context of the times, showing sensitivity to the matters and not making cheap political points.
I also thought the performances were brilliant. Tom Hanks was sinister and sneaky as Parker. Olivia DeJonge was stunning as Priscilla. The breakout is Austin Butler, however. He portrays Elvis excellently. Other attempts have fallen flat, but Butler even captures the King of Rock’s mannerism on stage and off stage. It was visceral and I appreciated how he showed Elvis’ faults, but also his positive attributes.
Obviously, the movie takes a lot of liberties. For instance, Elvis did not try to fire Parker while on stage. The incident actually occurred before the performance and the King of Rock went on to perform a hair-raising concert as usual.
As for the aesthetics, I cannot complain. It is brilliantly shot and except for some modern music sequences, I cannot complain about the soundtrack.
It has one major slaw, however. The movie is not really about Elvis. It is about Parker. The opening scene is Parker late in life as he is hospitalized. He then narrates the story of how he meets Elvis, who does not really appear until almost fifteen minutes into the film. From there, we see Elvis primarily through Parker’s eyes with the conclusion being him dying in Las Vegas, remembering Pressley. At times, it tries to shift onto its titular character, only for Parker to return in full regalia. I watched it with a non-reviewer friend who confirmed this troubled them as well. It was a curious path for Luhrmann to take.
Bottom line, Elvis is a truly fantastic film that has solid performances and shows us the power of the King of Rock, albeit as a passenger in the life of his longtime manager.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Substance abuse, Strong foul language
FAVORITE QUOTE: Elvis has left the building.
Check out the trailer below:
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