Elvis: Another review. by Nick Boyd.
“Elvis” is an energetically directed biopic starring Austin Butler in a star-making performance in the title role, but told (unrecognizable at first) through the eyes of Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, played by Tom Hanks. , the heroic man with his usual good plays in a performance that gets used to but eventually works. The film spans several years, taking us from Presley’s early days to his post-drug-fueled period. It is always visually stimulating in an extraordinary way and a true visceral experience.
As a young boy, Presley was attracted to revivalism and gospel music because he felt it gave him an excellent emotional sense. His first real time in front of an audience was at the Louisiana Hayride where he performed live. What was clear was his never-seen-before appeal to young women and teenage girls in the audience, who seemed more attracted to his childish charm and dancing than to his singing. It was conservative in the Deep South in the 1950s, however, there was backlash, with many considering it to be highly sexual in nature.
In Hayride is where Colonel Tom Parker first glances at Presley. In search of the next big sensation, Parker believes he has found it in Presley and tries to sell him on the idea of becoming his manager and promoter at a scene at a carnival. Presley is lured into the wealth that may come his way when Parker assures him that not only he, but also his parents, will be financially well taken care of. Parker sees that Presley is marketable in the best way possible, trying to refine his image so that he can get as many attendances and bookings as possible. Over time, Presley comes to see Parker as a father figure and to depend on and take care of him. Their relationship is effectively portrayed as we see the behind-the-scenes power that Parker has over Presley, even as he clearly states that he wants the best for her.
Another turning point for Presley comes when he is stationed overseas in Germany while in the military. There, he meets an American young teen named Priscilla, with whom he smokes. Despite the age difference, when Presley’s military service ends, the two move back to the States, marry, and have a child. The relationship eventually turns a rocky one as Priscilla believes that Elvis cares more about his addictive behavior and his career over himself and his daughter. One thing the audience was deprived of was the affair and subsequent marriage, which was never fully explored.
The latter part of the film shows Presley starting a singing residency in Las Vegas, becoming one of the first artists to do so. It is at this point that he is able to revive his career and seems to be taking back his glory days and enjoying himself.
Several aspects of the picture brought it down a bit. I thought it was distracting and frantic when the film was shown split-screen. Also, it was disturbing to begin the film in 1997 with Colonel Parker telling the story from his hospital room and it would have been better if it started with Elvis as a young man.
That being said, we actually get a glimpse of what made Presley such a popular figure, Butler effectively made the showmanship yet understated. At the same time, what was his influence on the culture and what influenced him became clear. The film makes a point to show how Presley was influenced by the gospel and the blues and enjoyed hanging out in black nightclubs and lounges. Beale Street, He was particularly fascinated by singers B.B. King and Little Richard, after whom he used to model his form and musical style. Such insights as well as pure entertainment of musical numbers make the film an eye-opener and a fascinating watch.
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