‘Elvis’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Elvis is a semibiographical musical drama directed by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet) from a screenplay written by Luhrmann, Sam Bromell (The Get Down), Craig Pearce (Strictly Ballroom), and Jeremy Doner (Legend of the Lost Tomb) Featuring Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Xavier Samuel, David Wenham, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Luke Bracey. The story is told from the perspective of Elvis’ former manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and follows his discovery and promotion of Elvis from a traveling musical act to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

At his home and elderly Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), is rummaging through his belongings. He comes across some Christmas cards before he falls over and hits the ground. The cards spill onto the floor revealing them as Elvis-themed Christmas cards. Parker begins narrating about how he discovered Elvis (Austin Butler) and by some is seen as the villain of the story. He however feels that he has always looked out for Elvis and done what’s right by him.

In 1955, while managing country singer Hank Snow (David Wenham), Snow’s son Jimmie (Kodi Smit-McPhee) plays one of Elvis’ records gaining the attention of Parker. Jimmie tells Parker that Elvis’ music is all over the radio and that he will be playing at the Louisiana Hayride. Parker seems to be impressed with what he hears, but states “the Louisiana Hayride would never allow a Negro to play on their stage.” After Jimmie informs the Colonel that Elvis is White Parker’s tune changes and he aspires to meet this new young singer in hopes of becoming his manager.

Before watching this feature, I didn’t know too much about Elvis Presley other than he was this almost mythical character at the center of US pop culture. He is considered the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and is the second best-selling artist worldwide, with about 207 million certified sales. He was a prolific actor starring in Hollywood films such as King Creole (1958), Viva Las Vegas (1964), and Jailhouse Rock (1957). Since his death, he has been mentioned or portrayed in movies such as Forrest Gump (1994), Men in Black (1997), and Walk Hard (2007). His daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, was once married to Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. He is very popular in Las Vegas selling out 636 consecutive shows at the International and Las Vegas Hilton from July 1969 through December 1976 and to this day has impersonators the world over.

Typical of Baz Luhrmann’s projects, this movie is shiny and chaotic. Everything is over the top sewn together with emotionally gripping small moments. The tone and length are more synonymous with The Great Gatsby than Moulin Rouge! Music is prevalent throughout and the anachronistic hip-hop songs work well. Luhrmann also does a great job touching on the notes of Elvis’ personal life from his relationship with his parents to his ill-fated marriage with Priscilla. He explores Elvis as a man who had hopes and dreams for his career that never materialized due to his connection to Parker. Topics that are still relevant today such as drug abuse, cancel culture, and a politically divided nation are woven throughout the narrative. Austin Butler is a star and does a fantastic job portraying Elvis without impersonating him. I am very excited to see what other roles he takes in the future. Tom Hanks is great as the against-type conniving Colonel Parker and hopefully, he continues to portray more villainous characters in his career.

While considered taboo, the story also successfully touches on Elvis’ relationship with the Black community. While many people feel Elvis became rich by stealing Black music, this story proves that was not the case. While Elvis was influenced by Black music and spent most of his time hanging out on Beale Street with Black artists, he did give Black artists their due. Whether recognizing the origin of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Gospel and Blues, going to B.B. King for advice, acknowledging the superior talent of the up-and-coming Little Richard, or calling Fatz Domino the real King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Overall, Elvis may be a tad too long, but it’s very stylish and informative. I give Elvis a Decent 8.1/10. If you’re a fan of Elvis’ music or Baz Luhrmann’s work then this is the perfect film for you. This is one of the rare summer releases I could see racking up a couple of nominations come Oscar season.

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