There have been a handful of TV features – mostly by John Carpenter Elvis (1979) starring Kurt Russell and the CBS two-part miniseries Elvis (2005) with Jonathan Rhys Meyers — but never experienced on the big screen until now.
Luhrmann’s portrayal of the world’s biggest rock star comes across as James Mangold Walk the Line (2005) on acid and steroids, with rapid, erratic processing transitions reminiscent of Bryan Singer’s work Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). We get all the usual tropes in music legend movies, such as childhood tragedies, the rise to stardom out of nowhere, the hype, pressure and manipulation that comes with fame and self-destruction.
We’re given Elvis Presley played by Austin Butler and Tom Hanks’ career-defying Svengali manager ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker. Olivia DeJonge is Elvis’ wife Priscilla, and Helen Thomson and Richard Roxburgh appear as the star’s parents.
His highs Elvis it’s mostly the man’s music himself and Butler’s performance. It takes a lot of courage to play someone as iconic as Elvis Presley, especially after an actor like Russell. But Butler takes the task seriously and doesn’t go off the deep end or be silly. His performance is natural and not distracting.
We also remind you, even with cinematic reenactments, that Elvis’ music is best enjoyed in a large, live theater.
What is campy is Luhrmann’s direction and Hanks’ performance. Luhrmann is the director who gave us outrageous hits like Strictly ballroom (1992), Romeo+Juliet (1996) and Red Mill! (2001), so making an Elvis Presley biopic doesn’t seem too unusual to him. While its flashy, flamboyant style works for the Elvis aesthetic, it’s also borderline cheesy at times, with a script that doesn’t quite get past the surface.
Like many biopics, Presley’s life is pretty sugar coated in terms of his love life, substance abuse and relationship with black musicians. Priscilla is introduced as the love of his life, yet they separate and divorce due to infidelity. We see Elvis taking inspiration from gospel and R&B music, but there is no proper progression of how he went from being a fan to creating his own image and sound.
Elvis mentions many times how he would like to be in a classic film, yet we quickly gloss over his film career and don’t even acknowledge Richard Thorpe’s career Jailhouse Rock (1957) or by George Sidney Viva Las Vegas (1964).
Hanks chose to give Parker a thick Dutch accent Elvis, despite the fact that the real man masked his voice with a soft American-like accent in public. This was done so that the actor could get completely out of character as an effort for the audience to not just see ‘Tom Hanks’ on screen.
Unfortunately, this tactic works against him, as does the makeup and prosthetics to give him Parker’s heavier physique. The choice to have Parker as the narrator Elvis it could have been interesting, but instead it’s inconsistent with too much focus on him at times, especially as he’s presented as a cartoonish villain.
At 160 minutes, Elvis it is both long on pacing and very short on full story. In some ways, watching Luhrmann’s new film suggests that television is the best medium for the King’s life, since there are so many periods and moments to cover.
I’ve seen biopics that are much worse. But Elvis it still feels like a missed opportunity to really dig into the rock star legacy.
Review: Full-Speed ‘Elvis’ Dazzles on The Big Screen, But Still Fails to Dig Deep Source link Review: Full-Speed ‘Elvis’ Dazzles on The Big Screen, But Still Fails to Dig Deep