I first started to think about watching Elvis seriously when I read somewhere that Austin Butler (Elvis) was hospitalised with appendicitis immediately after filming ended. Really not such a big deal but that particular website made out to be a “curse” etc etc and piqued my interest.
The movie is directed by Baz Luhrmann who has done other period pieces like Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby and The Get Down. Elvis is also very much moulded in Baz’s signature extravagant style of excess, and glamour, and clutter. It works because it’s Elvis and Elvis was all about the bling.
Austin Butler is Elvis- I have never watched him in anything so was mildly intrigued as to how he would handle it. I mean, we didn’t really know Rami Malek before Bohemenian Raphsody so maybe it’s better if it’s someone whom we don’t associate with any particular character. Butler did a good job, I felt, of humanising Elvis and breathing a life beyond the showman into him.
The movie is narrated by Colonel Parker (Tom Hanks) doing a weird Dutch/ Southern drawl with a VERY, large nose. His performance has been criticised as being a little too OTT and in your face but it kind of worked with the character because in fact he is the villain and Elvis is his victim in so many ways. He is annoying though and you hate from the beginning of the movie, He oozes dishonesty and you wonder how Elvis could actually trust him.
I grew up listening to Elvis’ music through my dad. But although I know ALL his music I never really liked the music or appreciated the cutting edge aspect of it. And guess what it was revolutionary - it was American country music mixed with Black music - blues, R&B, gospel. At a time of racial segregation Elvis was an impressively progressive artist who brought African American music to white teenagers and they loved him. He was larger than life. He was Vegas personified where he perfomed for many many years. And I left the theatre with a new found respect for Elvis the man and Elvis the performer. In fact I was in tears in the last half hour of the movie.
It's a long movie – almost 3 hours. Sometimes it feels like a very long trailer – because there are split screens and cuts and music changes and just too much going on. And until you really get into Elvis it’s a bit of a drag listening to Hanks’ weird accent thrown at you. My other pet peeve about this movie was Luhrmann never gave you an entire Elvis song- everytime a song I loved started and I would get excited, it stopped.
I would rate it 7/10– watch it if you have FOMO. It’s worth not missing.