If you’re hoping for expanded details about the “King of Rock n’ Roll” in this biopic, they’re here. When you hear the name Elvis Presley, outside of the songs he courted us with, you can’t help but think of the loud outfits, big belt buckles, the mismanaged movie career and his fondness for karate. Baz Luhrmann’s usual glitz and flash are all over “Elvis” because that’s who the singer was.
You can’t really show him in any other light. Elvis (Butler) was proud to be himself when allowed, eventually having to fight to be more independent of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Hanks). Parker didn’t like it when his commodity “wiggled” about on stage too much. To be honest, he didn’t much care what Elvis did, but the people paying Elvis to perform cared and threatened what Parker did cherish… his bank account.
Parker was a compulsive gambler and had gotten himself in a heap of trouble over the years, even being banned from playing in several Las Vegas casinos. Elvis was his way back into what made Parker’s life bearable. A new cleaner Elvis needed to be invented.
Using voice-over, the movie starts with Parker saying he’s the person responsible for bringing Elvis to his adoring audience. He isn’t happy about usually being dubbed the villain in Presley’s life story. But Luhrmann shows us exactly why he is seen that way. Parker’s called a liar, a cheat, a conman, and a fraud who worked Elvis like a mule, taking 50% of the man’s money. He doesn’t like being seen as a hustler, but when the shoe fits. Also, he does admit to being the master of the snow job, so he knew he had it coming.
Luhrmann doesn’t hold anything back, focusing on what others never really have. It’s remarkable how he shines a spotlight on the racism of the time. He hones in on the fact that racism surrounded everything Elvis did in the early days. Elvis didn’t let it get to him. Growing up in the ghetto, he mainly learned everything about singing and dancing (anything music related) from studying the black members of the local church. Through them, he cultivated a style that would later move people to tears. He loved what he learned from black performers and used it to take him to heights he might not otherwise have reached. Elvis took blues and gospel songs, added pelvic thrusts and his strong voice to them and changed his life forever. However, it was his movements on stage that got him into trouble with the law, breaking segregation laws by behaving, in those days, unlike a white man should. This was something that shocked me, but seeing that Elvis didn’t change who he was and continued to evolve made the film that much better.
There are a few remarkable scenes you’ll not soon forget. One is of Elvis being the conductor of his band when he’s about to start one of the first Vegas residencies. He brings the house down every show, filling Parker’s pockets without having to tour. Touring causes the talent to lose his manager too much in profits so we can’t have that.
Yes. The movie is a bit too long, but its length isn’t particularly daunting because the cinematography, quick cuts, and edits always keep your eyes on the screen. You don’t want to miss what the icon went through before his death in 1977.
Again, with voice-over, Parker tells us that Presley’s true love was for his audience. His last performance is also discussed.
We see Butler, who sings the early Elvis songs himself, made up as Presley on stage not long before his death. He doesn’t look well. Soon, you realize it’s no longer the actor but Elvis himself playing and singing the last song anyone would ever hear live.
There is much more to “Elvis,” and I encourage you to find out what there is to discover. It’s so inspired that I believe it will encourage the younger crowd to get to know Elvis and his music, and this movie will also bring the older fans back for another listen. Butler’s outstanding performance and uncommonly beautiful face won’t hurt in this effort.
See this on the big screen if possible. You don’t want to see on a small screen what you’ll be thinking about for days. One more thing. I’m sure you’ll agree some Academy Awards will be handed out to people involved in this film.
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Screenplay by Baz Luhrmann & Sam Bromell and Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner
Story by: Baz Luhrmann and Jeremy Doner
Cast: Tom Hanks, Austin Butler, Olivia DeJonge, Richard Roxburgh, Helen Thomson, David Wenham, Natasha Bassett, Xavier Samuel, Luke Bracey, Dacre Montgomery, Leon Ford, Kate Mulvany, Gareth Davies, Charles Grounds, Josh McConville, Adam Dunn.
Rated: PG-13 for substance abuse, strong language, suggestive material, and smoking
Run Time: 2h 39m
Genres: Biography, Drama, Music
Producers: Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Gail Berman, Patrick McCormick, Schuyler Weiss
Executive Producer: Andrew Mitmann
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures