“You only pass through this life once, you don’t come back for an encore.” – Elvis Presley
Rock ‘n Roll is known for many things. Its more notorious traits include the darker side of things like drugs, sex and alienation. These aspects of the lifestyle of a rockstar are as ingrained into the mythos as the music itself. Many have gone through it, many have not lived to tell the tale. Elvis Presley was one of the first to trailblaze the life of a modern day superstar. Becoming a famous musician now can have the benefit of hindsight as the mistakes of others can stand as an example of how not to navigate the chaos. Elvis had no such clarity. He was in a sense, going in deaf, dumb and blind. The addiction, the promiscuity, and the immense loneliness were all his to discover for the sake of future musicians to hopefully learn from. Of course now it would seem a majority of them emulate rather than avoid. It’s like a locomotive blaring its horn as a warning of its impending road crossing and everyone in the area decided right on the tracks was the perfect spot for an impromptu party.
With all the trappings of a popular musician it’s important to surround yourself with the right people. The right people are those that will put the person behind the fame first, above it all. Beyond the music and the money and fans, the people closest to you should have your health, mental and physical, as their top priority. Elvis had his parents, he would eventually have Priscilla and he had his fellow musicians to turn to. But where Elvis was headed no one had ever been before, something a snake named Colonel Tom Parker was betting on. For all the right people, the one wrong had more experience with fame and the pursuit of fortune and when he looked at Elvis he saw the entirety of man’s fortune all in his pocket. Unfortunately for Elvis, all the money in the world would never be enough for the Colonel and so with all the energy and naivety to go with it, Elvis stood by the Colonel blindly as he bled the superstar dry. It was by any measure, a match made in hell.
Every cliché you’ve heard or read about the music industry, it would seem in part at least, was created in the mind of the Colonel. He was a brilliant show business manager but the greed that seemed to pump through his veins proved to be more than he could control and that lack of oversight led to the downfall of one of the most famous musicians on the face of the earth. Elvis was a young man given the keys to practically anything he could imagine. His youth, and therefore lack of experience was his own demon in hiding. The Colonel saw this demon and fed it for his own gains and eventually this beast would be too big to carry.
There is so much to love about this movie. The story, however fantastical and exaggerated, is nevertheless abundantly entertaining and unfailingly interesting. That said its most glaring issue is the amount of story trying to have its moment on the big screen. At two hours and forty minutes, Elvis is a journey you must be fully prepared to go on. While I wouldn’t call myself a Baz Luhrmann fan I can understand his approach and when I want I can wrap my mind around going along with one of his outlandish stories. I really enjoy Australia and I tolerated The Great Gatsby. I can appreciate his work but time management seems to be an area he isn’t concerned with as Australia is 2 hours and 45 minutes and The Great Gatsby is nearly two and a half hours long. There’s only so much I can take before I need a break.
All of the glitz and glam of the Elvis Presley story is one meant for the big screen. His life is absolutely fascinating but for myself, around the two hour mark I was thoroughly and completely checked out. From the beginning I was in. I was interested in the Presley story and I knew how it was going to likely play out in the hands of Luhrmann. I was okay with all of it but around two hours in I have to be honest when I say I simply didn’t care anymore. As it would turn out I still had another forty minutes to go. I was tired and wanted to go home. I remember having a moment of pure clarity where I was super aware of my surroundings and wondering how in the hell we were all still in the theater watching this same movie. It felt like an eternity. I had to convince myself that if everyone else was still sitting calmly, quietly and watching that it must have been me. I could have used about thirty to forty minutes less of Mr. Presley.
The performances are what kept me in it as long as I was. Tom Hanks is unlikable in this movie. Imagine that, Tom Hanks, unlikable. As one of the most lovable people on earth, if that isn’t a testament to his abilities as an actor I don’t know what is. He is detestable and infuriating. The most genius part to his interpretation of this very real man was the unwillingness to accept any kind of blame for Elvis Presley’s downfall. In fact he goes so far to literally blame us, the audience or as he addresses us as, the fans, for the wayward ruin of Mr. Presley. He bled the man dry and left him virtually penniless and took none of the blame. He is a loathsome character and Hanks disappears into the depths of such vileness. But as expectedly brilliant as Hanks is, this is without question the Austin Butler show.
It’s said that when an actor becomes indiscernible from the character they’re inhabiting that a performance is truly complete. For these two hours and forty minutes, Austin Butler is Elvis Presley. From the mannerisms and facial expressions to the iconic speaking and singing voice and controversial dance moves, Butler is the living embodiment of the King himself. When you can watch a performance and think this person was born to play this character, you know you are witnessing something special. To have any other reaction to Butler’s performance is missing the point entirely. He is nothing short of brilliant as Elvis Presley and for his time on screen, however over it all I was by the end credits, I never stopped appreciating his time on screen. It was like getting a second chance to see his rise and unfortunate fall in an unprecedented way that only Elvis Presley could have gone through. It is tragic and mesmerizing to watch Butler bring him back to glorious life if only for a short time.
Ultimately Elvis is a movie I overall enjoyed but can’t picture myself ever having the desire to watch again. I got every ounce of enjoyment I’m ever going to get from this movie and that’s more than enough. I appreciate the performances and fully support a run for nominations come awards season. Baz Luhrmann’s pizazz is a welcomed addition to the Presley story and for the Elvis Presley fans out there, this is certainly one not to miss. I’ve had my fill but I’m not upset about it. It’s something I can appreciate but have no issues doing so from afar.
Rated PG-13 For: substance abuse, strong language, suggestive material and smoking
Runtime: 159 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music
Starring: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson
Directed By: Baz Luhrmann
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 9/ Acting: 10/ Directing: 8.5/ Visuals: 8
OVERALL: 7.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Not for me.
Check out the trailer below:
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