“Elvis is Baz Luhrmann’s 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.” -IMDB
Elvis has solidified a fundamental movie-going truth for me: go in with zero expectations and you will always be pleasantly surprised. Let me clarify…
Before stepping foot in the theater, this film had three things going against it for me:
1) Baz Luhrmann. Love Moulin Rouge, like Romeo + Juliet, hate Great Gatsby. Baz Luhrmann movies are a real toss-up. They can be dreamlike and whimsical or they can be over-the-top to the point of being stilted. I’m never quite sure how I am going to feel about them.
2) TWO AND A HALF HOURS. Ugh. I’m over these long movies. EDITORS, WHERE ARE YOU?
3) Elvis: While I like quite a bit of his music, I always thought of the man himself as problematic and, honestly, a bit boring.
The brief hope I had was Austin Butler. After seeing the trailer a couple dozen times on commercials, I was somewhat entranced by Austin Butler. Even within thirty seconds, I was drawn to him as Elvis, a man who I had never found particularly attractive. Yet every time I saw the trailer, I was becoming more and more entranced…
Anyway, it was with these thoughts in mind that I sat down for the odyssey that was to be Elvis.
Well, the minute Austin Butler came onscreen and opened his mouth, I was sold. The man was Elvis! It is the best biopic performance I have ever seen and suddenly I understood what my grandmother-in-law was talking about when she would describe her to-this-day obsession with The King. He sounded like him, looked like him, had the revivalist passion, had the sexuality, had it all. It will be difficult to find a better contender for Best Actor next year at The Oscars.
As for the rest of the film, I don’t think it could have come out at a better time. Elvis’s legacy is enough in the past that adults 50+ (such as my mother who only really remembers cheesy Vegas Elvis) and children and adults 50- will get a solid lesson to Elvis’s life and legacy. The film also does not shy away from discussing the controversy of Elvis appropriating Black music and popularizing it for his own profit, although the movie moves so rapidly that it doesn’t necessarily spend as much time on the subject as it could have. It also glosses over some more negative details of Elvis’s life, including his wife’s age when they married.
However, I don’t think this film is meant to be a full biography of Elvis. Those have already been made. Instead, Elvis is supposed to help you feel mania and to help you understand what made him the man, the myth, the legend that he was. And if I am correct in assuming that this was the true intention of the film, then the filmmakers (and Austin Butler in particular) did their job and did it well.
Rating: 8 out 10 Claire Bears
If you like this movie, you should also watch: Walk the Line, Straight Outta Compton
Streaming: In Theaters
With: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks
Directed By: Baz Luhrmann