Elvis Review


PLOT: The complex and controversial relationship between Elvis Presley and his lifelong manager Andrew “Colonel Tom” Parker is explored in the latest glitzy feature from Baz Luhrmann.

REVIEW: The latest musical extravaganza from Baz Luhrmann is a sprawling and ambitious effort. Elvis, the filmmaker’s latest, explores the legendary singer Elvis Presley’s rise to fame. More importantly, it tells the tale of Mr. Presley’s controversial relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Tom Hanks stars as the man many claimed to have destroyed the legend, and Austin Butler is The King himself. The film begins with a young and hungry singer inspired by the soulful sounds of gospel and blues. It follows him into a wild career, and how his life is altered by a man who wants to make him famous. And they succeed. But when it comes to fame, there can always be a downfall.

Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) is a man who knows talent. He’s managed country star Hank Snow (David Wenham) and more. But it all changes when he hears the music of young Elvis Presley (Austin Butler). Once the two begin working together, Presley’s star shines bright. He marries a young – very young – teenager named Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge) and starts a family. Yet as his fame grows, the exhausting demands of Parker begin to affect Elvis. The singer finds himself at the mercy of a manager willing to do whatever it takes for more fame and a doctor ready and willing to make sure that happens. It’s a story about a legend brought down by the need for excess.

The opening sequences in Elvis are as bold and glitzy as a Las Vegas Elvis concert. The filmmaker brings us a split-screen intro to the man, but the storyteller here is Parker. It’s an interesting take, as most feel that this is the man who built a legend and then let it burn to the ground. The film follows Presley’s impressive musical career, well into his stint making movies like Love Me Tender, Jailhouse Rock, Speedway, or Clambake. It also spends time on his attempts at television specials – including a Christmas special – and the singer’s legendary appearances in Las Vegas. The over two-and-a-half-hour film attempts to pack a heaping of Elvis Presley’s life into one feature film. Yet it only scratches the surface of this music legend.

The best thing about the film is its star. Austin Butler is sensational as Presley. The young actor brings a swagger and vulnerability to the man. His voice, his mannerisms, all of it feels like Elvis. It’s a difficult task to take on a role that nearly everyone in the world knows and yet make him so relatable. And this is just in his personal life. When this man gets on stage and recreates the incredible performances, it is a sight to behold. Frankly, when I first watched the trailer, I wasn’t quite sure he even looked all that much like Elvis. Yet he embraced the role and captured the mythical music icon beautifully. It’s a magical performance. It’s a shame that the film is more interested in presenting its subject in such an overtly stylized way.

Luhrmann presents a very bright and bold look at the world of music and fame. Much like he did with Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby. And with Elvis Presley, you could tell many tales from the legend’s life. The director wants to explore them all. They include Presley’s flirtation with becoming a Hollywood star. His many run-ins with the law due to his “lewd” on-stage antics. And if you are making an Elvis picture, you better celebrate all the show-stopping performances. All of which made him a legend. Baz packs all this into the feature. There’s so much here that it feels like a slightly superficial examination of such an important figure. The film speeds through his rise to fame and doesn’t quite connect to the subject matter. It’s a perfectly stylish film, so much so that it leaves little room to focus on the characters themselves.

One of the strangest elements is the performance of Tom Hanks. That’s not to say it is a bad one. Perhaps it was the choice to make the infamous manager the film’s narrator. There is a coldness in the story. For this viewer, it keeps you at arm’s length from getting to know the players. We get to see them at a rudimentary level. At times, Hanks comes across as a sweet, older gentleman that develops an obsession to create something spectacular out of the sensation he discovered. Yet he occasionally comes across as a villain, a damn near cartoonish one. I’m not sure if it was the nature of the role, or how he was directed that created such an off-putting take on Colonel Tom Parker.

Elvis is going to play well with fans of Moulin Rouge and the director’s hyper-stylized works. And yes, it’s a gorgeous film thanks to Luhrmann and cinematographer Mandy Walker. Yet it’s hard to find yourself fully invested in this dizzying musical display. Sure, the elements are all there, and there are certainly enough moments to make a mild recommendation to fans, but as a whole, this bold work feels like it was missing a bit of subtlety. Even still. Austin Butler is a revelation. The actor brings complexity and heart to the singer. When the script doesn’t quite get to the meat and bones of the man behind the mythos, Butler still manages to bring much-needed vulnerability to his work. Elvis has highs and it has lows, but if you are a fan of the singer, you probably won’t want to miss it.




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Source: JoBlo.com

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JimmyO is one of JoBlo.com’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.