“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog…” A famous line from one of the late, great Elvis’s famous songs. We had a horror film last week and immediately switched gears with a biopic about the king himself…Elvis Presley. Let me start by saying I am not the biggest Elvis fan.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago my Mamaw Jane loves Elvis. I remember growing up as a kid and my brother and I would request songs on the radio. We would ask who her favorite singer was, and she said Elvis so we would call and ask Elvis to be played. To this day, Elvis is still the number one selling solo artist so if you like music in any capacity you’ve heard the name and I’d imagine heard a few songs. I have always enjoyed musical biopics and if I had to choose a favorite it would have been Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. LOVED that film.
This film, however, I was excited because of the director Baz Luhrmann. He has directed MANY great films but one of my favorites has always been Moulin Rouge! I remember how outlandish and a mile a minute the opening and most of the film was and how Luhrmann would incorporate songs directly into the plot. My imagination wandered and I wondered how a new musical act would play out. I was not disappointed.
Onto the film.
We open (surprisingly) not with Elvis but with his manager Colonel Tom Parker (Hanks) it seems the Colonel is close to death and wants to make sure the audience knows he was NOT the reason Elvis died. Immediately I was thrown for a loop. I expected a relatively straightforward biopic. Elvis as a kid, then becoming a star, etc. We see the start being actually the end and then the movie TAKES OFF. The scenes on screen and the transitions between set pieces are outstanding. We do see Elvis as a child and learn about his backstory but the film jumps back
and forth and most of it you see from the Colonel’s (Hanks) narrative. Something to keep in mind, he is not a truthful narrator. We eventually meet the adult version of Elvis (Butler) and he is fantastic. The actor is relatively unknown, but within a few minutes he was Elvis. I was not watching a movie about Elvis I was actually watching Elvis perform. The way this film is edited is something I must speak on again. Luhrmann (the director) has several sequences when there are three separate events going on at once. It truly looks and feels like you’re at a concert.
Most of us known the tragic story of Elvis. If you’re reading this saying to yourself ‘He’s ALIVE!” I hope so and I hope he has found some peace but if not, the story is a tragic one. The cast helps push that as well. With a tragic story, if the casting is wrong it takes a little away. In Elvis, the casting is perfect.
Although Tom Hanks has moments where he’s too much. Maybe this is to have you despise the Colonel more than you already would by his actions. The chemistry between Elvis (Butler) and Priscilla Presley (DeJonge) is lightning. I was pulling for their relationship even after already knowing how it ends. Another aspect of the film I enjoyed was the surrounding events (MLK assassination, Bobby Kennedy assassination, civil unrest etc.) that played a large role in Elvis’s thoughts and feelings and even songs. This is a multifaceted film that hits on many different levels for a casual fan, a fan of cinema, or a diehard Elvis aficionado.
I have ONE complaint and only one. The runtime. For me, it didn’t feel long, but when you factor in previews, you’ll be there for over 3 hours. It didn’t feel like three hours but for that, I can’t give it 5 stars. If you don’t mind sitting (make sure you grab snacks!) go, see this film! I’ll be honest, I’ve played Elvis in my car since seeing this film and have a newfound love for the artist. I am confident this will be nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Butler) and Best Supporting Actor (Hanks) for this years Academy Awards. It make take even more nominations. Great flix. 4 ½ stars out of 5