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Elvis

Elvis

Synopsis:
From his childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi to his rise to stardom starting in Memphis, Tennessee and his conquering of Las Vegas, Nevada, Elvis Presley becomes the first rock ‘n roll star and changes the world with his music.

Baz Luhrmann directs a biopic of the King of Rock and Roll with . Colonel Tom Parker () is a former carnie, who has moved into the music business managing country singer Hank Snow (). Hank's son Jimmie Rodgers () brings to Parker's attention Elvis Presley (), a new young signee to Memphis' Sun Records, inspired by the Beale Street Rhythm and Blues scene. Impressed by Elvis' ability to drive female crowd audience members into a frenzy, Colonel Tom Parker decides to become his manager. However, Parker ends up pushing Elvis to the brink, leading to a substance abuse problem that contributes to his early death.

Elvis is a biopic about Elvis Presley co-written and directed by visionary Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby). Told from the perspective of unreliable narrator Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis begins with the rock and roll singer's rise in the mid-1950s and progresses to his downfall in the 1970s. When the controversy over his gyrating hip movements necessitates enrollment in the army, Elvis and up meeting and marrying Priscilla Wagner (), though their blissful existence is short-lived, as Elvis' hectic touring schedule results in him becoming addicted to pills. Worse still, it comes to Elvis' attention that Col Tom Parker has not been exactly an honest businessman in his management of Elvis' career.

Those familiar with Baz Luhrmann's three-decade-long career know that he tends to begin with his films being very extravagant and over-the-top, before becoming much more dramatic and serious in the second half. This is indeed the case with Elvis, which includes some anachronistic music choices, such as heavy guitars during Elvis' early performances or the use of hip-hop remixes of blues numbers. Austin Bulter, probably best known for his brief role as Manson Family member Tex Watson in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, ends up being spectacular in his performance as Elvis Presley, ranging from his early career dressed in pink suits to his latter years as a Las Vegas showman. However, Luhrmann (smartly) opts to not have Butler portray Elvis during his final obese years, opting instead to use archival footage of his final performance in 1977.

On the flip side, it is hard to view Tom Hanks' performance as Colonel Tom Parker as anything other than a caricature, with Hanks buried under a fat suit and sporting a somewhat unconvincing Dutch accent. That said, it is an interesting narrative decision for Baz Luhrmann to tell the story of Elvis from Parker's perspective, with the man being the master of the carnival con known as the “Snow Job,” where he relieves people of their money with smiles on their faces. The irony of this is that Elvis himself is one of Colonel Tom Parker's victims, with the former discovering too late that he was being taken advantage of, despite the fact that Elvis' father Vernon () was made business manager.

It often seems that Elvis focuses on the relationship between Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker, at the expense of his relationship with his wife Priscilla. The film ends up skimming over the couple's ten-year age difference and the fact that Pricilla was only 14 when she met Elvis. However, Australian actress Olivia DeJonge (The Visit) does a fine enough job with her performance as Priscilla, with her final scene in the film being one of note.

Ultimately, Elvis ends up being a biopic of Elvis Presley that only someone like Baz Luhrmann. It is far from a perfect film, but this will undoubtedly end up being a star-making vehicle for Austin Butler.

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Trailer for Elvis

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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