In Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, the king of rock n’ roll lives again. This review was initially scheduled for the week after the release of Elvis. Unfortunately, a bout with covid put a delay on my release plans. Even though this won’t be great for my SEO ranking, I still felt it was important to get my Elvis review out there.
If it wasn’t obvious from the trailers, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is a stylized, frantic, relatively safe biographical depiction of the rise and fall of Elvis through the hands of Colonel Tom Parker. Don’t know who Colonel Tom Parker is? Don’t worry, neither did I.
Elvis is told through the narration of his manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks.) He starts the movie by saying, “Everyone thinks I’m the bad guy, but I wasn’t the bad guy.” We then go into a dizzying montage of camera pans and rapid-fire transitions that take us from Elvis’s exposure to black music, to his debut concert, to hitting the road with Colonel Tom to become the greatest musical sensation of all-time.
At first, Baz Luhrmann’s directing style turned me off to the whole experience. The fast-paced editing and shallow dialogue conversations made it seem as if the film would be all style and no substance. I feared Elvis was going to be a silent protagonist.
Once we get past Elvis’s childhood the movie finds its groove in telling the story it wants to tell.
The mid-point of the movie is where we finally get to experience more of Elvis’s personality and see whether Austin Butler had the acting chops to do the king of rock n’ roll justice.
Readers, for one hundred and fifty-nine minutes, I truly believed Elvis was alive again.
Austin Butler’s performance as Elvis was, in my opinion, superior to Rami Malek’s take on Freddie Mercury. Maybe that’s an unfair comparison considering Elvis generally tends to have mannerisms and a specific way of speech that thousands of people have mimicked before.
But Austin Butler . . . he lived it man. Everything Austin did felt like Elvis. The way he moved, the way he talked, even the way the sweat came dripping down his face, I believed with every inch of my soul he was Elvis born again.
And apparently, I wasn’t the only one. When they screened the movie for Elvis’s widow Priscilla Presley, she had this to say, and I paraphrase. “If he had seen this movie, I think he would have said, ‘Hot damn! You really are me.’” Just imaging Elvis saying that to Austin Butler almost makes me want to cry.
But don’t expect the movie to dive deep into the dark side of his fame.
Though the film does touch on the topic of his drug abuse, the movie doesn’t go much farther than that. Diehard fans will know that the man (like the rest of us) had many flaws. He was significantly older than his wife Priscilla and drugs were a major problem in his life. There have even been accusations of Elvis culturally appropriating black music and claiming it as his own. Do not expect Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis film to cover any of these topics in detail.
This film is an idealized painting of how he lived, the nasty bits are merely acknowledged.
Before I forget, I have to say the setting and set decorations are spectacular
This film did an amazing job of bringing Beale Street and the consumer era from the 1940s to the 1970s to life. If you loved the hot rods of yesteryear or were nostalgic for the 70s muttonchops, Elvis brings these cultural icons back to life in full detail. If it wasn’t authentic to the era, you could have fooled me. Beale Street was not on my must-visit destinations until I saw the movie.
The saddest part of the film is that it all has to come to an end.
As you watch the film, you can’t help but feel empathy for Elvis and all he went through. Austin Butler did an incredible job of turning Elvis into a friend you’ve always wanted. I can also see how people could view Colonel Tom Parker as a villain, but he wasn’t evil. He was greedy and had his own problems, but he wasn’t lazy. Elvis needed someone like Colonel Parker to propel him to the top.
Baz Luhrmann doesn’t go into detail of Elvis using drugs. They show him taking a pill or two, but you never see any hardcore stuff on screen. What you do see is how the drugs ultimately ruin his life and marriage to Priscilla.
Once Elvis becomes old and heavy, you can’t help but feel bad for the guy.
When we reach the end of the film, Elvis sings the last song he recorded before passing away, Unchained Melody. As Austin Butler sits at the piano, the movie transitions to actual footage of Elvis singing and it is utterly heartbreaking.
As we walked out of the theater my mother burst into tears. At the end of the day, when you take away the glitz and glam, these artists are people too. They suffer, they cry, they struggle with real life. The only difference between us and them is how they live.
Although the movie was long, my whole family enjoyed it and so did I. This film would be great for a casual or even a hard-core Elvis fan. It’s simply a joy to watch and Austin Butler’s performance is one you should not miss.