Luhrmann crafted a wildly entertaining ‘Elvis’ story

by Mark Meszoros | (Willoughby, Ohio) News-Herald

“Elvis” is not your ordinary biopic.

The new film about rock ‘n’ roll icon Elvis Presley—through the lens of his more than two-decade partnership with his increasingly duplicative manager, Colonel Tom Parker—is an elaborate web of intricate shots, editing outside the box. and excellently executed musical integration.

And you wonder why we don’t get Baz Luhrmann movies more often?

“Elvis” — directed and co-written by the Australian filmmaker, whose last big screen work was 2013’s “The Great Gatsby” — is such a feast for the eyes and ears that it felt like an example of the genre for a while. over the substance. However, as it progresses, the film finds its storytelling feet and offers a relatively interesting portrayal of a man who turned up the music.

The cast and crew are packed with Australian talent, but the job of portraying Elvis goes to little-known American actor Austin Butler—who in 2019 starred in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” as Tex Watson. made a mark – and his passionate performance and ample vocals are another reason for the film to be a success.

The huge name in the cast is Tom Hanks, who employs an accent similar to the so-called “Colonel” that, unfortunately, is never easy on the ears at the beefy running time of the film.

“I am the man who gave the world Elvis Presley,” Hanks’ incredulous narrator tells us in the film’s opening moments. “Without me, there would be no Elvis Presley. And yet there are some that make me the villain of the story here.”

Well, he’s definitely the villain of Luhrmann’s story, but searches for Elvis. While working as a carnival promoter in the South, Parker overhears the young man on the radio and comments to those around him that despite the singer’s apparent talent, he will never grow up because he is black.

“That’s it,” Parker is told. “She’s white.”

When he first sees Elvis performing, Parker can’t believe “how weird he looked,” and a man in the audience yells, “Get a haircut, Angel!”

However, Parker notices something else some of the women are watching: “Wiggle.”

As he observes how Elvis’ hip movements eat up the young women watching him, Parker locks onto one who, he says, sees the “forbidden fruit” in the man playing the guitar behind the microphone.
“She could have eaten him alive,” he says. “It was the greatest carnival attraction I’d ever seen. That was my destiny — right under my nose in Memphis.

Parker takes his claws at the Rock Giant of the future, revealing that while Elvis will be the “showman” he will be the “snowman”, the devil behind the scenes in the details who will make sure they always come forward. their business dealings.

But, over the course of “Elvis” — who can almost be called “Tom,” considering how big of a role Parker plays in the story — we’ll see him pull off a snow job on a food stamp of his own.

The story isn’t just Presley and Parker, “Elvis” is hitting the expected beats of the familiar story, which includes the importance of the singer’s relationship with his mother, Gladys (Ellen Thompson, “Top of the Lake: China Girl”). , and his fall for future wife Priscilla (Olivia DeJong, “The Staircase”)—a threat that Parker doesn’t see coming.

The film also naturally deals with Presley’s ups and downs in the music industry, including his scraps with the law over his stage antics and the loss of public interest around a time when some people in Liverpool, England were all the rage. become.

“Is it my fault that the world changed?” Parker asks us.

“Elvis” introduces us to fictionalized versions of other musical figures, some of whom are portrayed by today’s talented artists, including Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Yola) and Arthur Crudup (Gary Clark Jr.), and when the musical When it comes to music, the film is at its best. Forefront.

With its catchy visuals, “Elvis” gets its contemporary shine from elements such as Doja Cat’s original song “Vegas”.

More important, of course, is the inclusion of Presley’s music, and the likes of Luhrmann were effective with mixing here and there with Butler’s versions of some early music, as well as actual Presley recordings of tunes from the later era. is proved. Prepare to tap some toes.

“Elvis”—with Luhrmann as well as the three writers credited—is told almost entirely linearly, so the good times sadly give way to Presley’s career and later years in life, and so It’s far less fun to jump to its own conclusions. In the end, this is a portrait of a sad person.

It doesn’t help that Hanks just isn’t as compelling as Parker. As fun as the idea of ​​the star of movies like “Big,” “Forrest Gump” and “Apollo 13” playing the villain is, it’s all depressingly cartoon-like.

Butler, on the other hand, from good to great, brings the necessary fire to the titular figure and sings hits like “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel” when he’s on stage.

The “Elvis” microcosm comes later, when Elvis sings “Suspicious Minds” at a Las Vegas hotel when Parker acts against the singer’s wishes to make the residence permanent.
The terrifyingly composed sequence is one of the film’s myriad reminders of when “Romeo + Juliet” (1996) and “Moulin Rouge!” Including the director of memorable films! (2001) gives us something, it is more than likely a gift.

Nothing about “Elvis” – filmed entirely in Australia – suggests a film that could have been made sooner, and it didn’t take into account the filmmakers’ years of research into Presley and Parker. is taking.

So we get it, but maybe this time don’t stay away that long, Mr. Luhrmann. Don’t be cruel.


3 out of 4 stars

Rating: PG-13 (For substance abuse, harsh language, suggestive material, and smoking)

running time: 159 minutes

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