This film was incredibly close to being in my top 5 most anticipated films this year, but there were too many concerns surrounding the film that was hard to ignore, plus there were a lot of personal reasons why I wanted this film to be great. My grandmother, like many grandmothers, was a humongous Elvis fan, most of my appreciation for The King stems from her. Unfortunately, she passed away before the trailer was released and I’ve been observing this film surface wishing that she was still alive to get excited about this film. However, I know that no matter the reception, she would have loved it. For me, I think Baz Luhrmann has created a very engaging film that lives up to the legend of The King of Rock and Roll.
Baz Luhrmann as a director is no doubt an auteur of cinema, his style is immediately identifiable and separate from other directors. The problem is that his film is very hit or miss in my eyes, and I think I’ve pinpointed why. Baz loves to give his films glitz and glamour; everything shines with colour that leaps out of the screen. But in the weakest moments of his films, this glitz and glamour is used as a blanket to hide the cheaper moments. Luckily, there is nothing quite glitzy than Elvis the icon, so his style isn’t used so negatively here. One such element of Baz Luhrmann is the extravagance of his costume department, I really loved how they paid close attention to Elvis’ attire, possibly one of the most recognisable and iconic in music. It certainly lives up to the name.
Elvis himself, played by Austin Butler, you will see a side you never thought you would experience. I’m so glad that their primary focus was showing Elvis the man, not Elvis the performer. We dive into what inspired Elvis, what he was like as a family man, and a look into what music and his fans meant to him, the film opens up his character like a very personal autobiography. If Austin Butler doesn’t have a meteoric rise to fame because of this, it would take some film to do so. The one concern I had with the portrayal of Elvis was the voice, anyone can speak like Elvis, but of course, it’s an impression of The King, Butler’s voice does not feel like him doing an impression, it feels very natural, not once was I brought out of the façade. Whoever was his vocal coach has done wonders.
However, this is not a film we see through Elvis’ eyes, but the eyes of his manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), or as my grandmother would have called him, The Devil himself. I know if she were alive, she’d have been booing every scene with him in it, but I also think she would have understood a little bit more about his way of thinking. The Colonel didn’t exactly see Elvis as a performing musician, but more as a carnival act whose name to plaster on every conceivable thing. As he worms his way into having complete control over Elvis, he genuinely believes he is making the right choices for him, even though he is swayed by his gambling addiction. But that’s the thing with any addiction, you’ll never realise you’re motivated by it. Tom Hanks does give a good performance as the “snowman”, often the best antagonists are the ones that think they’re doing right, which Colonel Tom Parker is completely convinced of. I do think people will have a say about his choice of accent though, some may find it hilariously distracting.
With a near 3-hour runtime, there is a lot to unpack about Elvis, and for many, the overloading of information can be difficult to digest. We observe Elvis’ younger years, him being drafted to Germany, how the shootings of Martin Luther King and JFK affected him personally, etcetera. Although I personally felt that the film didn’t feel like three hours, I can see why people may end up thinking that. We get a lot more information on Elvis than we bargained for, and for some, it may end up a little tedious as we, of course, want to see him singing.
Something Baz Luhrmann does a lot with his films is to include modern music that clashes with the period his films are set in, in some sort of attempt to make it click better with the modern audience. You have an entire discography of the best-selling solo artist of all time, why would you do things any differently? Thought the exception to this is the inclusion of classic blues songs because it makes sense to include them contextually. Because of how modern the soundtrack is, it wouldn’t be a big stretch to think that they could have used more Elvis songs. Though granted, the Elvis songs chosen are pretty much his classic, and who gets tired of that?
There’s a very special lady looking down on this film with the biggest grin on her face. I too have a big grin on my face, but I’m level-headed enough to see why this film’s viewing experience could drag, what with its runtime. But at the end of the day, this is the film Baz Luhrmann film I can say with confidence that I like. Austin Butler gives a million percent as Elvis and I love that this is a much more human story rather than just a repetitive concert after concert storyline, which they could have easily fallen into that trap. There’s no more that can be Baz other than… thank you very much, I left the building happy for the film and my grandmother.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Elvis? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Minions: The Rise of Gru
For Grandma Rita