Tough one to review. But will try:
This is NOT a feel good romp.
Had you told me Baz Luhrmann were making an Elvis movie, say a year ago? I’d have assumed he were crafting a tribute to Presley’s golden era movies, rather than a serious ‘biopic’. Or, a kind of fairy tale Moulin Rouge job, wherein Elvis is the good guy, using music, dance and romance to take down evil racist baron baddies? Equally, a Strictly Ballroom style pitch: Elvis learns to dance? No. Sorry. None of that here.
IE: We get a lil’ less action, a bit more conversation, this time around.
You do get the Baz touches, of course. Colour bursts, editing tricks, choral severity of music fused to more upbeat pop-era stuff. But it’s muted, scattered, erratic. This feels like a more grown up and studied product. It is indeed, a ‘biopic’, of sorts, still.
Vast areas of complex history, both personal and musical/national, are distilled, in one movie. That does work, to some extent, but is neither served nor reinvented by the usual Baz touches of style. Genre and tone somehow do not quite ‘meld’ here.
This is DARK STUFF.
Seriously. An aura of evil, destruction, tragedy and loss. Some of that is down to the focus on Col. Parker. Tom Hanks gives a career best performance and Oscar worthy, as well as surely now earning him that Bond /Batman villain role he craves?.
Elvis’ mentor is portrayed here as a plain dealing baddie, who exploited an innocent and milked the property, to literal death.
ELVIS was a star. SO is Austin Butler, playing Presley to perfection. This kid has charm, talent, charisma and precision. A Val Kilmer/Heath Ledger quality is evident. THAT good!
Hollywood: book him! THIS is your next Superman, Jack Sparrow, whatever. Granted, they do not go full on Fat Vegas Elvis as far as they might have? But therein lies the genius at work.
Butler manages to capture the descent toward addiction and obesity and premature death through occasional ‘looks’ and words, rather than a sea of make-up and close-up. THAT is called ‘acting’. Needless to say, the kid can also sing and dance and cry on cue!
So. Yes. ELVIS = Worth a watch. Just do not expect a fun bit of escapist fluff. This is substantial, challenging cinema. You will of course come away humming all the tunes. But there will also be a degree of shock to your core humanity that such talent could be so exploited and that people can be so fragile, despite the allure of stardom.
Oscar worthy for the acting and edits/ambition. B++
THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING. 😉 X