MOVIE REVIEW: “ELVIS” the person


courtesy of Wikimedia

“When things are too dangerous to say, sing” — Elvis Presley

Emily Olson, Entertainment Editor

Stop, look and listen at Baz Luhrmann’s newest film Elvis, a biopic about the “King of Rock and Roll” Elvis Presley [Austin Butler]. Released on June 24, 2022, Elvis is a retelling of Elvis Presley’s career through the lens of his manager Colonel Tom Parker [Tom Hanks]. Elvis’ story has been told many times before through different documentaries, biographies and biopics, so when taking on the challenge of Elvis Presley, director Baz Luhrman needed a new approach. He decided to help the audience differentiate between Elvis the person and Elvis the performer. By telling the story through the lens of Colonel Tom Parker the audience is able to view Elvis through his biased lens giving the audience a view of Elvis the person. The story begins by showing Colonel Tom Parker collapsing in his home and being rushed to the hospital.

After some very flashy scenes of roulette wheels spinning and a fly-through of Las Vegas that makes you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster rather than watching a movie, Parker starts narrating. The rollercoaster keeps going as scenes cut back and forth between Parker at a casino and Elvis falling onto the floor before a performance. One method that the director uses to represent the time period is split screens. The split screen genre divides the viewer’s attention and forces them to pick where to focus. The chaos created by these split screens were at times too much for the audience to focus on. This may be an ode to Elvis’ over-the-top lifestyle, but it just made the scenes hard to watch. Not all of the split screen work was hard to watch, such as when Elvis steps out onto the stage at the International Hotel to sing “An American Trilogy.” The left side of the screen shows the real Elvis Presley on stage while the right side of the screen shows Austin Butler as Elvis Presley. This detail showed how much work was put into getting Elvis’ mannerisms right and accurately portraying his overall stage presence.

These scenes acted as an homage to fans of Elvis who are still supporting him today. Another area that the film struggled with was that some scenes in the movie felt like a trailer rather than a finished movie. When Elvis was being threatened with jail time because of how he was moving, newspapers flashed on the screen along with different voiceovers of news stations giving him the title “Elvis the Pelvis.” The loud and chaotic vibe that scene created was too much just to explain that people didn’t like the way he was dancing. It would’ve been perfect as a trailer because it drew me in wanting more, but there wasn’t anything more to say. This feeling carried over later in the film but this time it moved the story along and was fun instead of hard to enjoy. Parker was explaining that Elvis was now making movies rather than performing. There were scenes showing his movies, scenes showing what was happening in the world during that time, other things happening in Elvis´ life such as marrying Priscilla [Olivia DeJonge] and having his first child, Lisa Marie.

All of this is happening while “A Little Less Conversation” and “Viva Las Vegas” play in the background. Those 2 songs were, and continue to be, some of his most popular songs that came out during that time. Even though it happens fast, the events don’t need a lot of elaboration which makes them perfect to use in a smaller time slot. The main area this movie excelled in was casting and the portrayal of these iconic people. Not only the casting but the hair, makeup and wardrobe team truly did wonders.

Without these elements the film wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is. Austin Butler as Elvis is a highlight of the film; he nailed the mannerisms, the voice and overall emotions just as Elvis would. Moreover, the usually likable Tom Hanks nailed the master manipulator that was Colonel Tom Parker. If you are an Elvis fan this movie is for you; if you aren’t an Elvis fan this movie is also for you. Baz Luhrmann managed to take an idea that has been done so many times and make it feel brand new.