Elvis heads to HBO Max on Friday, and with it comes a feast of King’s music and the overindulgence of Baz Luhrmann’s epic. I suggest you understand that Elvis’ whirlwind life is an overwhelming ambiguity, and for better or worse, so is this movie.
Elvis was Presley’s early kaleidoscope of wild dreams, rising to fame, notoriety, and eventual demise.by his manipulation manager, Colonel Tom Parker (by), we watch the king of rock’s soars, powerful troughs and undeniably iconic moments in a feast for the senses.
There’s no denying that the Elvis is a fascinating watch with all the glitz and glamour you’d expect from a Presley biopic, but it leans more towards an ode to Luhrmann’s cinematic style than an ode to the king.
Luhrmann’s characteristically visual excess and extravagant style of filmmaking—familiar from 2013’s The Great Gatsby and 2001’s Moulin Rouge—overwhelmed some of the poignant and painful moments in Elvis’ life. But if you can get over the dizziness and distraction that comes with Luhrmann’s more outlandish choices, there’s really a lot to love about this movie.
White-hot rising star Austin Butler toured as Elvis, his own vocals melded with the king’s to create a multi-layered transition from the 1950s to Elvis’ final years. Considering how many Elvis impersonators there are in the world, Butler’s ability to play the role without falling into stereotypes is admirable — just as he worked on Presley’s signature moves and The Voice .
Rumor has it that this actually affected the actor’s day-to-day speech because he chose to shoot for two full years, but let’s be honest: if that’s the worst thing his acting style has ever brought him, then so be it.
The supporting cast had mixed results, with Australian Olivia DeJonge excelling as a disappointing underutilized Priscilla Presley. Luhrmann regulars David Wenham and Richard Roxburgh were as consistent as ever, but I was surprised that Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Colonel Tom Parker wasn’t consistent enough.
While the prosthetic does most of the heavy lifting, the inconsistent accents and the presence of the comic make it hard to suspect we’re looking at anyone other than Tom Hanks with a prosthetic nose. As a big fan of Hanks, it’s hard for me to admit that he’s easily the weakest link in the band.
Ultimately, my biggest criticism was that the bloated runtime messed up the pace, and the last 40 minutes felt twice as long as the first. At times, it does feel like an excuse to show off all of the iconic Elvis costumes and songs, which is understandable – which is largely why audiences show up – but there are a lot of Elvis stories left out , replaced by a more angular collage.
But if you can’t help but fall in love with all things Elvis, don’t worry, there’s no shortage of memorable moments, costumes, smolders, and songs. Sources say that Priscilla herself even congratulated Luhrmann and Butler and said the movie brought her to tears, which you can’t deny was a hell of an endorsement.
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