16th of August 1997 was one of the darkest days in musical history. It was the day Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, had left the building for the last time. His legendary performances and countless hits were the inspiration for numerous musicians worldwide, and the fans are still adoring him as they did when he was still alive.
Now, he’s being eternalised on the big screen in “Elvis”, the glamourous and electrifying latest movie from director/co-writer Baz Luhrmann (“Romeo + Juliet”, “Australia”). Having to fill one of the most legendary shoes in the world is Austin Butler (“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”, “The Dead Don’t Die”) and let us tell you, he delivers an exhilarating performance that keeps Elvis swinging.
It’s Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), Elvis’s manager, who takes the forefront at first in this movie. He takes you back to the beginning of Elvis’s career when the young boy from Tupelo, Mississippi, U.S., had the dream of becoming a superstar. Elvis’ rock ‘n roll music was already very much talked about because it appealed to black and white audiences, which was extremely rare those days with the racism going on.
His music not only got the town talking, but his gyrating hips also caused a stir, especially among his female fans. That was something Parker took advantage of gladly. He saw this young musician as a rising superstar and, most importantly, an incredibly huge cash cow.
After investing in less successful artists and performers, Elvis was Parker’s last resort to wealth, luxury and fame. The two struck a deal, which was the beginning of one of the most famous but darkest collaborations. After dropping all his other clients, Parker’s primary focus is making Elvis the biggest star in the world.
While the musician is initially reluctant (as he wants to stay true to his roots, family and friends), he allows himself to be swept away by the glitter, glamour and money of Las Vegas and the music business. While Elvis is fulling his dream of becoming the greatest musician, he’s also sabotaging his future by conceding to Parker’s plans. Plans only involve him getting rich and famous as soon as possible, no matter how far he needs to go.
The dynamic between the talented and dreamy musician and the possessive conman/businessman is what this movie is about. You will see everything from the rise of fame in the 1960s to the Las Vegas residency in the 1970s.
Yes, there have been many movies and television series about the story of Elvis, his career and his rise and fall, but “Elvis” isn’t like any other. This is because Luhrmann distances the movie from others by using the Parker’s POV and by making the movie with such glamour, charisma and stunning visuals (what did you expect from the director of “The Great Gatsby” and “Moulin Rouge!”) and top-notch stars, that the Elvis story rises above itself and above the pace issues the movie has.
The absolute star of this movie is, without a doubt, Butler. He’s uncanny as Elvis, mainly because of his extraordinary physicality, which certainly goes beyond any Elvis impersonator we’ve seen. The charisma he oozes, the physical presence, the highly well-known music and let’s not forget the incredible acting make sure that “Elvis” will leave you breathless from beginning to end.
You’re either going to hate or love Hanks (“Finch”, “Greyhound“) in this movie. It’s great to finally see him in a more devilish and darker role. While the heavy make-up, prosthetics and the Southern accent are sometimes a bit too thick, his performance is still delightful. There’s also the female glamour touch in the form of Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley (“Josie & Jack”, “Stray Dolls”). She delivers a beautiful, emotional and grounded performance that balance out Butler’s powerful, strong and swinging acting perfectly.
It’s clear that with this movie, Luhrmann is against taking the audio-visual aspect to a new level. He doesn’t only use the classic Elvis songs at the perfect time but also modern music that gives the movie a contemporary vibe. The archival elements, newspaper headlines, comic book art, and real-life video footage certainly add another level of authenticity, quirkiness and rock ‘n roll.
There are also the dazzling stylistic scenes, the enthralling and fast-paced editing and the stunning, over-the-top but extremely fitting costumes, make-up and set designs. Butler and Elvis might not have similar physical characteristics. Still, when you have a great hair, make-up and costume design team, you can turn anyone into the King of Rock ‘n Roll, especially when the actor is a superstar.
If you’re not the biggest fans of Luhrmann’s previous flamboyant and over-the-top work, then “Elvis” will certainly not do you any good. However, you might want to give this musical a shot as it embodies the one of the most famous rock stars in the world in a stunning way. The stunning visuals, the fast-paced storyline, the top-notch Elvis songs and of course, Butler’s Oscar-worthy performance make sure that “Elvis” is worth the watch, despite having some pace issues.
“Elvis” is out now in U.K. cinemas
24th June 2022
THE QUICK SELL
From his childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi to his rise to stardom starting in Memphis, Tennessee and his conquering of Las Vegas, Nevada, Elvis Presley becomes the first rock 'n roll star and changes the world with his music.