Thursday, June 23, 2022

Elvis - Review


With the audacious director Baz Luhrmann attached to Elvis, it should come as no surprise that the final product is a confounding, kaleidoscopic display of overconfidence. Luhrmann is known for his over-the-top fantasies, and for some reason, believes that the energy of Elvis Presley can be captured within the standard story practices of a musical biopic. Here’s a hint: it can’t be recreated, or at least not with this set-up.

For better or worse, Elvis tells the life story of the pop culture icon Elvis Presley. From his beginnings in Mississippi hearing the mesmerized by the sound of the blues to his days starting out in Memphis and beyond, the film seeks to explore every moment of Elvis’ life. The results of which feels like being tossed around in a washing machine of delirium for two and a half hours. 

That’s not to say there aren’t bright spots. Austin Butler is clearly committed to portraying Elvis in the best way he can, and admittedly, he does a fantastic job. When the film is centered on him and his presence on the stage, it soars. Unfortunately, there are too many instances where the film disrupts its own momentum by cutting to something far less interesting or inserting an over abundance of narration from Tom Hanks in a so-so Dutch accent.

It’s as if every creative crossroads that Baz Luhrmann faced, he chose the wrong path. While Colonel Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks, undoubtedly played a big role in Elvis’ life and career, he commands at least half of the movie, and truthfully he just isn’t as interesting as Elvis Presley. Luhrmann takes risks with the structure and insertion of modern day covers of Presley’s music, but those risks seem to only disorient or distance the audience rather than immerse them. 

And in Luhrmann’s choice to continually lean into Parker’s influence and the spectacle of it all, it’s hard for Butler’s portrayal to truly reach its full potential. There is very little exploration of Elvis and his very real flaws, and seemingly so much placed upon the shoulders of Tom Parker, giving Butler nothing firm to stand on in terms of inner turmoil. By the time the film reaches its time in Vegas, the whole thing feels stilted, a moment that must be covered but offers nothing new besides an ending for this mess of a biopic. 

There should’ve been little doubt to the potential of this film when the best title they could come up with for a film about Elvis Presley was Elvis. It shows there was a lack of a vision from the start, just another film about a musician that offers a birth-to-death story that can never actually capture what the person was like. Luhrmann at least inserts some outlandish editing and visuals, but none of it can save its sloppy, frenetic story from itself. 

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