MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “Elvis” stars Austin Butler (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Aliens in the Attic), Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan, You’ve Got Mail), Olivia DeJonge (The Visit, The Sisterhood of Night), Helen Thomson (Kangaroo Jack, Gettin’ Square), Richard Roxburgh (Van Helsing , Moulin Rouge! ), Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Luce, Monsters and Men), David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, 300), Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road , Slow West), Luke Bracey (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, The November Man), and Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things [TV series], Power Rangers ). It is directed by Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby , Romeo + Juliet), who also wrote the screenplay with Sam Bromell (The Get Down [TV series], Hard Chic [Short]) and Craig Pearce (Charlie St. Cloud, Strictly Ballroom).
A retelling of the wild and turbulent career of Elvis Presley (Butler), from his discovery by Colonel Tom Parker (Hanks) in the 50’s to his concert in Hawaii in the late 70’s.
Never would I have thought to see so many shots of pelvic thrusts…
Yes folks, I saw “Elvis.” And there’s good reason for it. All of my life, I knew my grandma to be an avid fan of the king of rock and roll. Whether it be the magnets of Elvis on her fridge, bottles of Elvis wine, or Elvis serius XM radio always playing her in car, there was no end to her adoration of the man. So, when I saw the trailer drop for this latest biopic, I knew I had to take her to see it. What I didn’t realize was that it is directed by Baz Luhrmann, who helmed the latest iteration of “The Great Gatsby.” Meaning, we were in for a wild ride.
Luhrmann’s take on the music legend is loud, bouncy, and fast. Oh so very fast. The first half of this feature flies at the speed of light, never taking a moment of pause until Elvis’ second half of his career. Was this intentional? Maybe. Luhrmann is fairly specific with his choices, but the montage of a first act made things quite difficult to keep up with. It was an explosion of visuals and musics, all of which overloaded my senses. I couldn’t keep up, so I simply let go and absorbed what I could.
Tom Hanks’ Colonel Tom Parker narrated this tale, offering a different spin on the weaving of this narrative. Hanks disappeared into the role, assuming the villain position real well. Typically, when I see Hanks in a movie, I see him (save for a few performances that got him nominated for Oscars). However, with “Elvis,” I didn’t think of Hanks. I only saw the Colonel. And if I were to guess, I’d say he’d be a contender for a Best Supporting Actor nomination…
Of course, when you go to see an Elvis biopic, you’re paying close attention to the man behind the imitation. This go-around, the gemstones and capes fell to Austin Butler, a man I didn’t realize I grew up with until a Google search. You see, I first bore witness to Butler when he played my least favorite character on a Nickelodeon childhood series I watched called “Zoey 101.” He didn’t have a chance to win over my heart, as he was a replacement for the lead love interest on that show. Soon after, he played an older brother role on the small family feature “Aliens in the Attic.” It was a fun picture that had a hilarious action sequence between a grandma and a young man. Discovering how this man was a child actor from my childhood made watching his turn of Elvis all the sweeter. It was as if I had journeyed with him to this moment; and boy howdy hey, did Butler steal the show. His take on Elvis was phenomenal, as he carried his prowess with ease. Not to mention the music, which Butler sang portions of himself. Luhrmann couldn’t have picked a better guy for the role.
The story of Elvis is an intriguing, engaging, and ultimately sad one. Over a year ago, I watched a documentary on the musician (“The Searcher”) and learned a lot. Some of which transferred to this narrative piece. Quite a bit is embellished for the sake of Luhrmann’s style, but for the most part he captures the king’s story well. The only portion I wish was included was Elvis’ spirituality. He loved singing gospel music; it won him his first Grammy. However, this side of him was never showcased, which I can only sum up to the liberal industry shutting out any strong form of Christianity. Oh well.
There’s plenty to admire about this biopic. It’s honestly my favorite to come out in the last five years (not like I’ve seen many). Butler’s performance is worth great praise, the music is wonderful, and the cinematography is fantastic. With Luhrmann, you get a visual spectacle. I loved the look of this movie, from the camera work to the production design. Sure, I could’ve done with a more slowed down first act (and far less pelvis shots, because it was a bit much), but things seemed to balance out as time went on. If you’re a fan of Elvis and his work, you won’t be disappointed with this one. FINAL SCORE: 83%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: