Trying to fall in love with film again.

I didn't like Elvis... I loved it!

Story 
 

Elvis tells the story of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, told by his manager Colonel Tom Parker. 

I saw a TikTok on my way back from watching the movie that said the movie did not focus on Elvis, rather it focused on Tom Parker. An argument could be made that it is Tom Parker's story, the way that Avengers: Infinity War is Thanos' story. Tom narrates the beginning and his voice is interlaced throughout the movie reminding us that he is the one telling the story. He is the unreliable narrator bringing us into his own version of events, and even though we know the manipulation that ensued from the very beginning, we are carried along from beginning to end.

Acting 

When I say "Give Austin Butler an Oscar" I am not joking. He TRANSFORMS into Elvis. 

Sometimes when you watch a movie, you see the actor in the role and you recognize that they are acting. That does NOT happen in this movie. Yes, I know that I am not looking at Elvis but I also was not looking at Austin Butler either. He completely encompasses the role, and from the little, I know about Elvis, he really embodied his mannerisms, vernacular,  and charisma for this role. 

And you know what? Austin Butler is hot! I rarely ever say that about an actor in a review but he captures Elvis' sex appeal. and the interesting thing about Elvis' sex appeal in this movie. It is period-appropriate while also adhering to today's beauty standards. 

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures


The internet is talking about how he is still talking in the Elvis voice, (personally, I love it) and it shows how much dedication he must have put into the voice if he is still talking like that a year after production has wrapped. 

 I found out before I started writing this review that it took him 18 months to prepare for the role, and that hard work really shows off. He said that he watched videos, and documentaries, read books and worked with numerous coaches in preparation for this role, and his hard work really does pay off because his acting is stellar. It is multi-faceted and complex while also appearing effortless and simple. 

Tom Hanks is an actor we're used to seeing in likable roles. And this is the complete opposite of that. The best way to describe Tom Parker is sleazy. From the moment you meet him, you know that something is wrong. And given that many people know how the story ends, it is sad watching how Tom manipulated Elvis throughout his life. 

The chemistry between Austin Butler and Tom Hanks has to work in a movie like this because the movie revolves around them. The relationship between their characters is the nexus of the movie. And the chemistry is palpable, from the beginning to the end, you can see the two of them feed off each other and react to one another. From the good to the bad, the actors as well as their characters carry out each scene and tell the story in a masterful display of their acting ability.
 

Writing/Direction 

In the aforementioned TikTok, the creator mentioned that the camera moved around too much creating a jarring viewing experience, and while I can see where that critique is coming from, I don't necessarily agree. Biopics tend to have a formula regardless of who it is about, and interestingly enough, the story beats in this one are similar to that in Get on Up, the biopic about James Brown. And the best way to set a biopic about Elvis is to have the visuals reflect the "extraness" that was Elvis, especially in his later years while he was performing in Las Vegas. 

Baz Lurhmann's directing style is very stylized and flashy which makes a lot of sense given WHO the movie is about. And though the movie is never boring, the visuals suck you in from the beginning, and honestly, I knew what I was getting into with this movie because the visuals are very similar to  The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge. It almost feels like you're watching a fictional story rather than a biopic about a person that ACTUALLY existed. 

Condensing Elvis' 24-year career into a two-and-a-half-hour movie is a Herculean task, but Baz Luhrmann and Jeremy Doner managed to capture the essential story beats and important moments while telling an emotional story about a boy who likes music. 

Did this movie show Elvis in the best possible light and leave out some things, I am sure it did because that is what biopics do, so I am not going to get on a soap box and go on about how historically accurate or inaccurate this movie is. And as someone who has no emotional attachment to Elvis, I found the movie quite moving. Some of his internal and external struggles are things that you and I go through every day, and the movie strips away the pomp and circumstance of Elvis Presley the performer, and gives us a glimpse into Elis Presley the man.

CGI/Set Design 

The CGI in this movie is.... noticeable. There are instances that it was so noticeable that I stopped to think "that's is a lot of CGI."This typically occurred in the flashy transitional scenes at the beginning of the movie, and towards the end. For the most part, the CGI isn't really a problem that I am contending with. 

Something that the set designers got right in this movie is showing a sense of space. Before Elvis becomes "√člvis", his surroundings are smaller, almost claustrophobic, and it feels like the space cannot contain his big personality and big voice. However, as the movie goes on and he gains more wealth, the set becomes bigger and more spacious, almost as his he is not too big for his boots. The vastness of the set can also be seen as an allegory for Elvis' relationship with the people around him (barring Tom). The smaller the set, the more connected he is, the more spacious the set, the more isolated he is. 


Now, I don't know if this was an intentional decision by the creative team, but what I do know is that the set design propels the story in a way that shows us what is going on rather than tells us.

Score/Soundtrack  

Given that this is a biopic about a musician, music is to be expected. And the sound design of the music is CHEF'S KISS. Much like in the Great Gatsby, the soundtrack infused musical elements of the period as well as modern music styles that we are used to. Apparently including original music and covers by modern artists is meant to show Elvis'impact on modern music, which I thought was a cute tidbit.

Before I get into Elvis'music, I want to touch on the original music. And more specifically the main single 'Vegas'by Doja Cat. DOJA CAT DID WHAT SHE HAD TO DO WITH VEGAS. (I am listening to it as I write this) I heard the song in May and have been in love with it since then, so much so that I was actually singing along with the song while it played in the movie. Including a sample of Big Mama Thornton's version of Hound Dog, which not only sounds good but serves the story as well as the movie makes it clear to include the fact that A LOT of Elvis' music was inspired by black people.

The song has a lot of swag and it was used in a scene where Elvis goes back to Beale Street and in that scene, Elvis has a lot of swag, so it really is the perfect pairing.  



The sound design in this movie is beautiful. Elvis music is embedded in the score, making the blend between soundtrack and score seamless, and at times haunting. Sometimes film score feels like an afterthought, but it is very clear to me that Elliott Wheeler, the composer took his time to craft a score that weaves scenes together and feels like a part of the story, rather than a random collection of sounds in the background.

Even though I am not a fan of Elvis, I know a lot of his songs like Hound Dog, Can't Help Falling in Love, Jailhouse Rock, Suspicious Minds, and Blue Suede Shoes. So I was not surprised when I found myself singing along to the songs that I did know. 

I was shocked to find out that Austin Butler ACTUALLY sings in the movie, in the first half. (I am actually listening to his version of Trouble while I type this, and it gets a big thumbs up from me.) Having him sing in the movie brings in an authenticity that might have been lost if he was lipsyncing for the whole movie. That being said, Baz Lurhmann confirmed that Elvis'voice is used at the tail end of the movie as he gets older. If I hadn't found this information out while doing research for this review, I would never have known that because all of Elvis' performances are just so good!

Overall Thoughts

In all honesty, I am not a fan of Elvis Presley, so for me, my connection to this movie comes from an aesthetic place rather than an emotional one. When the movie was announced, I didn't pay much attention, but the closer to the release I got really excited. And in the past week, I kept talking about how I wanted to see it. 

I was curious about how Elvis would be portrayed and how the movie would tell his story and I can say (completely unbiased) that Elvis is a really good movie, that captures the highs and lows and Elvis'life and career in stunning detail.  I saw some tweets from people saying that they were Elvis fans, who praised the movie for its portrayal. 

TL;DR - Elvis is really good and I think I might watch it again. 

Comments