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Review: Elvis & Nixon

Elvis & Nixon
04.19.2016
8 10

2016, alex pettyfer, cary elwes, colin hanks, elvis & nixon, evan peters, kevin spacey, michael shannon, johnny knoxville, liza johnson

PLOT: What happened behind the scenes of one of the most famous photographs of all time? Well ELVIS & NIXON explores the meeting of a rock and roll star and The President of the United States, and it’s a great time at the movies.

REVIEW: Michael Shannon may be one of the most powerful actors working today. He continually gives incredibly dynamic performances including the recent MIDNIGHT SPECIAL and 99 HOMES. However, as we witnessed in THE NIGHT BEFORE, he can be funny as well. And while his latest isn’t even remotely that kind of comedy, it is a light and engaging feature. In ELVIS & NIXON, we find out what may have happened when Elvis Presley meet Richard Nixon. Watching Shannon, and his co-star Kevin Spacey, take on the real life iconic figures makes for a real movie going treat. While the new film certainly isn’t groundbreaking, it is something special thanks to both the leading men and a quirky script by Joey and Hanala Sagal, and even THE PRINCESS BRIDE star Cary Elwes.

Elvis Presley (Shannon) is already a massive music and movie star. He is so huge that he relies heavily on his friend Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer in what may be his best performance to date) to deal with his many engagements. When the iconic singer becomes disenfranchised with the way protestors gather against the Vietnam War, and the heavy use of drugs amongst teens, he decides he must help out his country. He convinces Jerry to get him to Washington DC and attempt to set up a meeting with President Richard Nixon (Spacey). And while Nixon originally scoffs at the idea, he is convinced by two of his employees, Egil Krogh (Colin Hanks) and Dwight Chapin (Evan Peters) to do it for the sake of relating to the young voters.

2016, alex pettyfer, cary elwes, colin hanks, elvis & nixon, evan peters, kevin spacey, michael shannon, johnny knoxville, liza johnson

Directed by Liza Johnson, ELVIS & NIXON moves at a brisk pace and manages to tell a enlivening story. As a period piece, there is definite care put into the look of the film. The hairstyles, wardrobe and the set design are all on point. There is nothing particularly compelling about Johnson’s visual style, yet she keeps it short and sweet. Running just under a hour and a half, it certainly never lags pacing wise. The film explores how one of the most famous photographs in the National Archives may have come to be. There is nothing terribly complicated here, just an enjoyable time watching two great actors take on two of the most famous men in history.

Both Shannon and Spacey are exceptionally good. Yet it is Shannon who steals most of the spotlight. He may not necessarily look just like Elvis, but he carries himself perfectly in the role without feeling like he is doing simply an impersonation. He is genuine as The King of Rock and Roll, including his reasoning for wanting to step into the Oval Office and fight for his love for America. While Spacey gets a little less screen time, he is equally effective. The two actors are so good in dramas, that it is refreshing to see them bring that talent to something as endearing and delightful as this.

2016, alex pettyfer, cary elwes, colin hanks, elvis & nixon, evan peters, kevin spacey, michael shannon, johnny knoxville, liza johnson

As great as both the two leads are, it helps that the supporting players are solid as well. Alex Pettyfer is just terrific as a guy who is slightly frustrated by Mr. Presley’s spontaneous acts. While Jerry clearly wants to get on with his own life without failing on his friendship with Elvis, he clearly respects and cares for the man inside the white, jewel encrusted jumpsuit. Pettyfer is so damn good here that he adds a ton of heart to the already charming tale. As well, both Hanks and Peters are having a great time playing off of Mr. Spacey. Their hidden enthusiasm for when Elvis shows up is genuinely infectious.

ELVIS & NIXON may only be based on the happenings behind a single photograph from decades ago, but it sure has a ton of creative flair behind it. Johnson may not add anything terribly special from a visual standpoint, but giving Shannon and Spacey the room to really play with these characters is what makes it all work. Credit should also go to the script that never takes itself very seriously, yet it doesn’t make a joke out of the situation. The humor here is subtle, and the film works all the better for it. It may not be the kind of cinematic bio flick that earns a ton of awards, but it sure as hell is a pleasure to take in. Shannon and Spacey as Elvis and Nixon! That is all the reason you need to enjoy this fine feature.

 

Source: JoBlo.com

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