Summary: The life of American music icon Elvis Presley, from his childhood to becoming a rock and movie star in the 1950s while maintaining a complex relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
Disclaimer: I’m reviewing the movie as a movie, I don’t know anything about Elvis Presely so I’m not going to be going into the validity of the film.
Austin Butler as Elvis Presley. He is literally the best thing about the movie. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is good but Austin literally transcends this movie. I remember when he was cast, I was like “oh snap, I love him, that’s an interesting choice but he’ll probably be really good,” and boy is he. He doesn’t exactly look like Elvis which I’m sure some people will really be annoyed with but you can tell the work he put in, he embodies Elvis. The voice, the dance moves… he actually sings all of the songs when he’s young Elvis. Everything up until the “comeback special” is all Austin singing. Like, I cannot sing his praises more. The way he plays how shy Elvis is in the beginning but then comes alive with sex appeal, energy and charm when on stage. The way he dances, it’s so hard, I wonder how sore Austin was after filming some of these scenes, especially those Vegas scenes when he’s like flailing his body around lol. He has a lot of great emotional moments. Whenever I think an actor would potentially be nominated for awards, I think about the scenes they would show to showcase their amazingness and I think there are a few when he’s older Elvis, particularly after finding out the truth about the Colonel. He does a great job in those scenes, you really feel his frustration and anger. Man, Austin did so good. He better more leading roles after this. Well done!
The Cast is great. No one does a bad job. I think Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker was rightfully scary and intimidating in a lot of areas, he was also quite funny… my only big gripe is that stupid accent lol. I mean, it helps make the viewer unsettled and consider that something is up that we learn later, but I didn’t like it lol. But otherwise, he’s fine and I think he and Austin Butler have good chemistry since a lot of his scenes are with Austin. This is a big cast, but everyone does their jobs well.
The Costumes. I think all of the costumes are nice for everyone in the film. There was an extra wearing a dress during the chaos after his “Trouble” performance and that was beautiful. I think Priscilla’s outfits were really nice as well but obviously the “Elvis” outfits are what we’re here for. I think they do a great job of recreating his iconic looks as well as his general every day fits because I don’t know if they recreate his “every day” fits for the film. All of his Vegas looks are really nice and I remember commenting on the detailing of the outfits. I love a lot of his suits, that purple suit he wears when he visits the Colonel in Vegas for the first time is extremely nice and he looked great in it. He wears a lot of black outfits when he’s older and those are nice. But my favorite look is the black lacy shirt with the white pants combo and the pink suit he wears, both when he’s young Elvis. I also love his outfit during his “Trouble” performance. Austin looks great in all of these looks but this lacy shirt and pink suit are just… top tier, quality outfits.
It’s a Cautionary Tale. I love how The Colonel is narrating the story and claims that he didn’t kill Elvis by overworking him and how he was always in his corner and all this stuff, but he’s an unreliable narrator because we clearly see the opposite on the screen. I love that. I love that this movie is basically a cautionary tale of how to not be naive when entering in this kind of business because for the sake of the movie, Elvis was very naive and too trusting. Like, 50% of your earnings to your manager?? Sir, that’s wild. Or how the Colonel would create deals and contacts with people on Elvis’ behalf and talk to him about it afterward and “snow” him. Also, don’t kiss random female fans while you’re performing and you’re wife is there…like sir excuse me? Also…did the Colonel create the “death threat” threats? In the movie, it seems like he does, which he probably does for the film, and that’s wild.
Musical/Spectacle. It’s a movie based on Elvis Presley so there’s a lot of music. In fact, it feels like a giant music video which I think is a strength but also a problem sometimes which I’ll go into later. Because Elvis has this larger than life presence in music, he’s so energetic, I think the style of the film works in its favor overall. It’s fun and captivating and Austin Butler really captures that energy. Not to mention, Colonel Parker always says “Showmen are Snowmen” and the movie itself feels like we’re being snowed because of all the stuff being put in our faces because the movie itself is one giant show. I also love how we don’t really see Elvis’s face until almost 10 minutes into the movie when he goes on stage for the first time. We see some montages of him in Vegas and you see that it’s Austin but you may not really catch that in the beginning.
Character Development. I think the biggest problem with the movie is the characterizations. I will mention this more later but because the movie feels like a giant music video/montage of his greatest hits, we lose some character moments. Don’t get me wrong, there are some there and Austin Butler does so well with the ones that he has (I mean he’s good period lol) but I feel like we lose the character moments in the spectacle. I wish we got to sit with these people more. The quiet moments of Elvis’ mom’s death, I wish we got to sit in that more before we jumped to him being in Germany in the army. A lot of this might be because the Colonel is telling the story and he doesn’t care about that stuff but because of that (and I don’t hate his narration) we lose some substance. I think we get way more of it when Elvis is older but it’s not enough, at least not for me as someone who loves character development.
Elvis and his Momma. I don’t know what his relationship with his mom in real life was like but the movie portrayed it very intimate and I didn’t like it lol. There are a couple of times when it feels like they’re positioned like they were lovers. On my first watch, I definitely was like “That’s his momma right?” If it was just for the movie, they could have blocked those scenes differently lol.
Prosthetics/Aging Makeup. Obviously we go from Elvis being a teenager to him being in his 40s before his death. When he’s a teenager, he just looks like Austin Butler, who was about 27-30 while filming and he looks pretty young. When he gets to about 30ish and they’re doing his time in the movies, they start doing some weird makeup on him. He seems to be a little tan even when younger, which is fine, but it’s really noticeable, especially in the scene when he’s “filming a movie on the water” and they’re doing a political, civil rights montage. What was going on there? I feel like it’s inconsistent later on too. As for the other big prosthetic thing… Tom Hanks looks bad lol. Someone mad a joke about him looking like The Penguin (Batman 2022) and that’s so true. I looked up the real guy and they did their thing to make them look similar but I just don’t think it looks good lol. However, I feel like they spent all their prosthetic budget on Tom Hanks and so when they had to make Austin look older, it was weird.
It’s a Giant Music Video. This is good and bad I think. We know that Baz Lurhman is known for his bombastic and lowkey outrageous movies, and sometimes this movie feels like “Elvis’ greatest hits with some character moments” and I think this is very noticeable. This movie is over 2 hours long and it does feel a little long in some parts, I think it could have been maybe 20 minutes shorter. But while I think I liked the “young Elvis” stuff more, I feel like the movie rushes through a lot. We have no idea of how much time passes between him going on tour, buying Graceland and doing his “Trouble” performance at the park. The only reason I was really able to deduce from the movie how old he might have been during certain stuff was his conversation to Priscilla about “when I’m 50 and you’re 40” and then of course I googled it. No idea that by time he did “Trouble” he was maybe 23 since he and Priscilla are 10 years apart and he met her while in the army when she was 14.
NitPicky Things. I feel like this is a small thing but during the montage when Elvis is on the road for the first time, his bandmate gives him a white pill, I’m assuming was ecstasy, and he takes it during this conversation of “putting some pep back in his step” but we literally don’t see him “lose any pep”. I also don’t know if Elvis struggled with drugs before his Vegas time, but why include him taking the ecstasy if you’re not going to show him doing drugs any other time? We don’t see him abuse drugs or alcohol after that moment. He even scolds his mother for over drinking. What was the reason!? Also, they talk about him acting a lot but he himself never says that he wants to be an actor, if he did, I missed it in the three times I watched this movie. They could have had a line in the beginning or something where he mentions this. This didn’t bother me but I can see it bothering other people, it’s the current music in the movie. Doja Cat’s amazing song “Vegas” is played a little at the beginning and its noticeable that it’s a current song but I think it fits the movie and the scene, same with this rap song that’s played when Elvis escapes to Beale Street. I get it for those who don’t like it but it’s fine lol. I just wanted to mention that.
Overall, I really liked Elvis. I think the movie is fun, bright, loud and musical just like Baz Luhrmann likes it. The movie really fits his style. I think the acting across the board is really great but Austin Butler is literally the standout from the film, this is his film. Truly. If you don’t get anything else from this movie, just know that he is magnificent. The music is good, especially impressive knowing that Austin sings the songs when he’s “young Elvis”. The costumes are great. I like that while it’s a biopic, it’s also a cautionary tale and there’s a lot to gain from that. On the other hand, some of my negatives are probably nitpicky things but the movie isn’t fundamentally bad or filled with issues so lol, but the prosthetic work is okay, I think while it mostly works, the spectacle of the film affects the chance for real character moments sometimes. I also didn’t like how they would make reference to things that I feel like isn’t followed through on. I also found it uncomfortable and weird how the blocking was between Elvis and his mom. But overall, recommend the movie!
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Elvis? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments! Also, what is your favorite biopic about a musical artist?
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