Elvis Presley is a man who held many titles. He was a singer, an actor, a soldier and an icon. He has left a real mark on music history, and there may never be a musician as revolutionary ever again. From the outside, it might have seemed like he had it all, but he faced a lot of adversity and trouble, even at the peak of his stardom. His life was controlled, but he always had to put on a brave face. The new biopic “Elvis” pulls back the curtain on Presley’s life. Released in theaters on June 24, Baz Luhrmann’s newest spectacle shows Elvis like you have never seen him before. This film displays the rise and fall of Elvis Presley up until his untimely death at 42 from a heart attack. Whether or not you are a fan of Elvis’s music, this is a story that can grip and amaze anyone. You will be able to see how even a king can feel like a servant.
Even though this film is called “Elvis,” it is not told from his point of view. It is told from the point of view of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). However, even though it is told from his perspective, the film makes it clear that he is the villain of this story. We see how he discovers a young Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) performing a small show at a carnival. Elvis grew up in a poor part of Mississippi and gained interest in music at a young age. Now, all he wants to do is make his mother (Helen Thomson) proud. Parker manages to convince Presley that he knows what’s best and that Presley should give him full control over his music career. Parker then builds up Presley’s career, but it is not smooth sailing at first. Presley is driving the women wild with his wiggling hips, and it shocks the conservative people. Even so, Presley is getting bigger by the day. However, Parker is calling all of the shots. Parker decides the performances, he makes all of the deals and any possible decision has to go through him. There is no room for Presley to have a say. Presley is getting too caught up in the life of stardom and is quickly deteriorating. Does Parker really want what’s best? And is Presley ever truly happy?
The best and worst parts of this film are the performances. Austin Butler does an incredible job playing Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley is a legendary performer, so playing him is a huge job. Butler was certainly up to the challenge. He became Elvis Presley. Butler was able to sing and dance around the many stages so well that you could understand why the girls were screaming. He was also able to give deep emotional performances, like when Elvis’s mom dies or when his lack of freedom becomes realized. Austin Butler has not led a film before, but after watching him in this film, I hope he has another opportunity. Then, there is the mediocre performance by Tom Hanks. Obviously Tom Hanks is one of the best actors of our time and always gives 110 percent in every role he plays. However, this was not the role for him. He played Colonel Tom Parker too much like a cartoon villain even though this man was a real person. The vague European accent was too thick and the way he played the character seemed like it would be better for a comedy. It was an okay job, but I feel like there was a version of this film where the character is more grounded, and that would put this movie over the top.
Since this film was directed by Baz Luhrmann, it had to be a spectacle. Luhrmann is known for directing “Moulin Rouge,” “Romeo + Juliet” and the most recent version of “The Great Gatsby.” What do all of these films have in common? They are all known for their bright colors and flashiness. “Elvis” certainly delivers on that expectation. We see the brightness of all of the stages and concert halls, especially in Las Vegas. There are all of Presley’s fun and sparkly costumes, like his iconic white suit. Almost every scene feels electrifying. A lot of scenes were filled with people dancing around and having fun in the bright lights. Even though there are plenty of serious moments in the film, there are other parts that are very lively and beautiful. The direction was also great in terms of storytelling. I thought telling the story through Parker’s perspective was an interesting choice. It shows how Presley can’t be in control of anything, even when it comes to the narrative of his own biopic. The film was two and a half hours long, but it really flew by. There were some montage parts that could have been shorter, but overall, it felt tight. Biopics have been around for decades so new ones always have to try to be extra interesting. This one achieved that goal.
I am going to be honest, I’m not really a fan of Elvis Presley’s music. His songs are just not for me. However, I have always recognized how he is a pioneer for rock and roll. This film did a great job at humanizing him. He is obviously not perfect. He did meet his wife when she was 14 and he was 24, a fact that was kind of glossed over in the film. And on top of that, he wasn’t even that faithful to his wife. However, this film is able to show that he is deeper than one might think. He is more than just some guy singing “Jailhouse Rock” in tight pants. Presley went through a lot in his career and audiences deserve to see that. Audiences also deserve to see how Colonel Tom Parker is a huge prick. So head over to your local theater to see “Elvis” on screen today. Thank you, thank you very much.