Release Date: June 24
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Austin Butler,
Tom Hanks, and
Mister Marquee Says:
Do you really need me to tell you who Elvis Presley is? Baz Luhmann’s fever-dream biopic follows the King of Rock N’ Roll through his early days in Memphis through to the bitter end. It’s not really told from the point of view of Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), but the Colonel is sometimes used as a framing device and narrator.
Luhrmann’s bombastic approach to filmmaking often feels like a peacock on amphetamines, and in this case, that frenetic style and BIG feel are appropriate. From his presence, to his clothes, to his standing at the time, to his memory, Elvis was big.
To say this is a faithful telling of the facts would be as incorrect a statement as any of the other recent rock biopics that have come out. These movies are less concerned with accurate details of the artist’s life (especially the ones with living band members involved) and more fixated on the persona, on the legend. With Elvis, it works.
There’s Elvis Presley the man, and ELVIS. This movie tries to serve both masters but heavily favors the latter. Perhaps that’s for the best, like the tender romantic first kiss between Elvis and Priscilla in Germany. That moment is an “aw” moment in the cinema until you realize she was 14 at the time.
Colonel Tom Parker is the villain of the story and, as a carnie trickster by trade, he’s an easy enough guy to push under the bus, deservedly or not. The Colonel works as a villain, but Tom Hanks does not work as The Colonel. The accent doesn’t work, and the prosthetics don’t work. Every time he’s on screen, you’re painfully aware you’re watching Tom Hanks be Tom Hanks with a silly voice. Not quite Keanu in Dracula bad, but not a career highlight for a miscast Hanks.
Austin Butler is fantastic as The King, though, and propels this wild music video along. Butler will be remembered along with the great musical impersonations in cinema.
Elvis, like its name sake, commands the screen with bright, loud colors and thrusts its hips in your face for two and a half hours, and it pretty much works.
Release Date: June 24