A biopic of Elvis Presley, from his childhood to becoming a rock and movie star in the 1950s while maintaining a complex relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
THE GOOD STUFF
AUSTIN F****** BUTLER- In 2005 there was a miniseries about Elvis Presley. It was with Dennis Quaid and Rose McGowan, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers who played the King. Rhys Meyers won a Golden Globe for his performance, and he damn well deserved it. His performance was very good. I feel the need to point that out because it’s important to thoroughly emphasize… that the Rhys Meyers performance absolutely, positively pales in comparison to what Austin Butler does in this movie.
The year isn’t even half over in all technicality, and I can tell you that there will be no bigger breakout role in the year of 2022 than Austin Butler’s performance in this film. This is a complete transformation that deserves to be mentioned alongside performances in biopics from the likes of Jamie Foxx (RAY), Joaquin Phoenix, (WALK THE LINE), Val Kilmer (THE DOORS), and Gary Oldman (SID AND NANCY). A transformation that makes watching normal interviews with Butler seem flat-out surreal. This is Oscar-worthy stuff and nothing less than Oscar Worthy.
TOM HANKS- To date, Tom Hanks really has only played one villain on screen, and unfortunately, that villain came in a forgettable 2017 film called The Circle. He was unquestionably evil, but he was evil in this charming sort of Mark Zuckerberg type of way. He also was only in the movie for about ten whole minutes of screen time.
I know nothing of Colonel Tom Parker other than that he is often seen as a mustache-twirling villain in the Elvis Presley story, no matter who tells it. Hanks plays him as kind of a demon. He’s like an abusive boyfriend to Elvis Presley more than he is a poor father figure. Parker is not menacing or intimidating. He simply knows he’s smarter than the icon that he manages and regularly chooses to exploit that for his own game. It’s really the worst kind of evil. That’s what Tom Hanks plays in this film. The worst kind of evil.
THE 1ST ACT- As with most biopics, the three-act structure is pretty predictable. The first act is about going from relative obscurity to international fame and how the film deals with that transition. That being said, the first act of this film is not only extremely great, I will go as far as to say that it is the most impressive cinematic stretch of film in the career of Baz Luhrmann.
The 4th of July concert/riot in Memphis ending this movie’s first act is nothing short of f****** incredible. From what I’ve understood, the show itself didn’t exactly go like that (Elvis didn’t even write the song yet that he performed in that scene). Still, as funny as it may sound, I don’t exactly expect historical accuracy from Luhrmann films, not even in Biopics.
THE BAD STUFF
THE 2ND ACT- The second act of a by-the-numbers biopic such as this one usually involves meeting love interests or tragic things that happened that shift the character’s personality. That definitely happens here in a mostly routine way, and it is here where the kinetic energy of the film completely shuts off.
I won’t go as far as to say that the second act is boring, because it is not. I feel that the way that the film portrayed the 1968 comeback special was entertaining. But there’s a noticeable difference in how those musical sequences were treated as opposed to the first musical performance at the carnival show and the aforementioned 4th of July concert in the first act. It just didn’t feel as lively.
THE UGLY STUFF
EVERYTHING PRISCILLA- It’s 2022, and I would come to think that there’s somebody out there who’s never really known that much about the life and career of Elvis Presley. They probably went into this movie expecting the by-the-numbers biopic that it is. But I will also assume that if they’re here because it is a biopic, then they’ve seen other biopics of musicians that emphatically emphasize how much their spouses meant to them and the art that they created.
That same person would walk out of this movie thinking that Priscilla Presley was just some girl that Elvis hooked up with when he was in the war, who ended up having his baby, and stood off to the side while he went and did incredible and amazing things. You could easily come away from this film thinking that she was a very minuscule part of his life outside of the divorce that ended up happening while he was spiraling out of control. There is no justice given to Priscilla Presley in this movie. Not at all.
THE THIRD ACT- From the second the ’68 comeback special is over, this film flat out falls off of a cliff. I want to say the third act of this film might be the longest act of the film, and it tries to cover so much up until the death of Presley that it feels very overstuffed.
There’s not a lot of coverage on Elvis’s physical deterioration that he was clowned on for such a long time about, for probably the purpose of lionizing him as much as possible. There’s just so much stuff thrown at the screen to close out the film that it feels arduous and tiresome by the time the credits roll.
Baz Luhrmann movies never stick the landing. Ever. This third act is better than a lot of the b******* that has closed out Luhrmann films in the past, but it’s still pretty bad.
Sometimes a film will have a perfect 50/50 ratio of things, both amazing and terrible. And in those cases… you have to flip a coin, I guess, when it comes to an overall review.
Bask in the amazingness of the first 45 minutes of this film. Then, stick around for the ’68 comeback special……….but then you can leave after that.
ELVIS is playing in theatres now