"Elvis" stars Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Olivia DeJonge, Luke Bracey, Natasha Bassett, David Wenham, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Xavier Samuel, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Released on June 24, 2022, the film chronicles the life and career of Elvis Presley.
The film is directed by Baz Luhrmann, who also directed "Strictly Ballroom", "Romeo + Juliet", "Moulin Rouge!", "Australia", and "The Great Gatsby". It's still no surprise to see that Hollywood sees success in representing the famous singers of yesteryear on the big screen. The amount of money "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Straight Outta Compton" brought in years ago helped pave the way for musical biopics to share the spotlight with superheroes, wizards, and even dinosaurs. This weekend continues this toe-tapping trend with a movie centering on one of the most significant icons on the planet: the "King of Rock and Roll" himself, Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley is another prominent celebrity I've only known through references in different media, with the most prominent one being Disney's "Lilo & Stitch". The fact that I only remember Presley from a cartoon about an alien disguising itself as a dog shows I'm a 90s man. While I didn't listen to Presley's music as often as others, I was curious to see how the film translated his life story and music for its audience. The iconic performer has had quite a history during his career until his death from heart disease in 1977. So it would be interesting to see how much stuff they can put into the biopic and how accurate they are. Plus, it's got Tom Hanks as Elvis' manager, which marks another main reason for me to check it out. With that said, let's see if this latest music biopic is as energetic and mesmerizing as Presley's moves.
The movie centers on the life of Elvis Presley (Butler). It examines his journey from his childhood to his career as a rock and roll star and movie actor. After befriending Colonel Tom Parker (Hanks), he gradually rises to fame due to his magnetic choreography and singing voice. However, his complex relationship with his manager and series of controversies threaten to destroy his career and his life.
There's very little for me to say about its plot despite its surprisingly beefy length. That's because the movie only depicts Presley and the obstacles he encountered during his musical journey. Like every recent musical biopic, "Elvis" was given the task to deliver a good depiction of the singer that honors their legacy and the fans who grew up listening to their music. Additionally, it has to provide a strong reason for newcomers to start checking out their library regarding the quality and storytelling. Movies like "Straight Outta Compton" and "Respect" easily accomplished their goal despite their stretched-out lengths. At the same time, some, like "Bohemian Rhapsody", struggled to meet all their toe-tapping expectations regarding their reception. "Elvis" wiggles its way to the former category with enough energy and style to reinvigorate its traditional biopic narrative.
While the movie centers on Elvis and his career, the story is told from the perspective of Tom Parker, the manager responsible for Presley's downfall. Throughout the film, Parker reflects on his experience working with Elvis and how his actions caused this relationship to crumble. Now, it's easy to argue whether this idea is necessary since Parker was a greedy fool who turned Elvis' life upside down. However, I found it to be essential for one good reason. The film is presented as a tragedy involving the dark side of fame. Parker's obsession with financial gain from Presley resulted in him falling from grace along with Presley, who too fell prey to the sins of stardom. One of them is, of course, the drugs he took that led to his death. This is another scenario in which there's always a price to pay to keep the fame going, and that price will eventually lead to their downfall.
Regarding its storytelling, the film follows the basics you'd see in any other musical biopics. You have the rise to fame scenario, the controversies regarding the singer or their music, and of course, the piece of resistance, the downfall. Its story may not change the world like how Elvis did, but that doesn't mean there's no effort in making itself enjoyable. The movie is consistently entertaining with its musical sequences and irresistible cast. Not only that, but it's also suitably compelling in its character-driven moments and stylishly magnetic in its presentation. Its two-and-a-half-hour runtime may seem concerning at first, but its frenetic pacing and decent narrative helped me look past its overbearing length to appreciate its fun and splashy value.
There has been a lot of praise centering on Austin Butler, known for playing Tex Watson in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood". After watching the film for myself, I can easily understand why. Butler is another actor who completely embodies the role of a real-life celebrity. From his mannerisms to his choreography and singing voice, Butler completely disappeared into the role of Elvis Presley with spectacular results. Whether it's enough for him to get into next year's awards season remains to be seen, but I wouldn't be surprised if his performance earns him a nomination or two. Tom Hanks goes for an against-type performance that sees him portraying the selfish manager Tom Parker. The result may not be to everyone's liking, but he put on a good enough show to stand alongside Butler's Presley. Olivia DeJonge also did a stellar job with her performance as Priscilla Presley, Elvis' wife.
Baz Luhrmann is usually known for providing a ton of visual flair and radiant production designs in his unique storytelling and editing. Unsurprisingly, "Elvis" is no different, with the filmmaker delivering a style that's as wild and charismatic as the rock and roll singer himself. I appreciate Luhrmann's distinctive style in some of his previous films, mainly "Romeo + Juliet" and the 2013 adaptation of "The Great Gatsby". Watching "Elvis" made me respect the filmmaker even more, even though the editing in some sequences can be a bit of an eyesore. The director also did a great job making its setting and characters authentic with its production design, costumes, and makeup. The costumes and makeup play a key role in transforming the actors into their respective characters, mainly Elvis and Tom Parker. Like the costumes in the other music biopics, the ones in "Elvis" were admittedly fabulous. Then there's the film's soundtrack. Elvis' trademark songs and the modern music seemed like an odd combination, but the movie somehow managed to make it work for me.
Overall, "Elvis" rocks its way past its standard narrative to deliver a consistently frenetic and visually astounding depiction of the king of rock and roll. Admittedly, it's not a perfect representation of the singer regarding its beefy length and genre formula. However, its delirious fever-dream-like scenarios and musical sequences make it hard for me to resist. With its solid cast, Luhrmann's trademark style, and a story that's as entertaining and compelling as Presley himself, the film is another decent addition to the musical biopic lineup. If you're familiar with the singer and have enjoyed some of Luhrmann's previous movies, you definitely don't want to miss out on this crazy experience.
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