There are few people in history with a name more recognisable than Elvis Presley. Known as the king of rock & roll Elvis’ revolutionised both music & the idea of modern celebrity during his lifetime. While his story is well known Baz Luhrmann’s new film, simply titled Elvis, looks to give Elvis’ story a new, creative & dazzling spin.
In typical Baz fashion this film moves at a breathtaking pace as it sweeps the audience through three decades of the life & career of Elvis. In somewhat unexpected fashion though Elvis doesn’t use the tried & true biopic formula of viewing the events through the eyes of the subject. Instead Baz explores Elvis’ story from the perspective of “the man who gave the world Elvis” Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), Elvis’ manager & promoter.
Viewing the life & career of Elvis in this fashion makes for a unique viewing experience that allows Baz to take some creative liberties with the film’s areas of focus. As mentioned, the film moves at a blistering pace which often means it feels like pivotal period in Elvis’ career are brushed over in an instant. Despite this though Elvis is incredibly compelling & emotionally affecting viewing.
Elvis is so emotionally impactful thanks to mesmerising performances from Austin Butler as Elvis, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker & Helen Thomson as Elvis’ mother Gladys.
Taking on the role of the King must have come with an almost unbearable weight for Austin Butler but he manages to embody Elvis rather than come across as a cheap imitation. Baz’s use of archival footage alongside footage of Austin & the phenomenon sound mixing of Austin’s voice with Elvis’ original vocals further cement this embodiment of Elvis by Austin.
Tom Hanks gives the world his sleaziest, conniving performance ever as the manager who pushed Elvis to the brink, all while profiteering in his own right. Hank’s was perfectly cast in this role as he manages to straddle that fine line between despicably evil & endearing, much as you would expect from a sleazy promoter who is really only looking out for themselves.
Elvis’ mother, played by Helen Thomson, also plays a crucial role in this film as Elvis’ emotional anchor. As a young man Gladys Presley was Elvis rock when it felt like the world was out to get him. When that safe harbour in a world of storms is gone Elvis begins to lose his way.
Visually the film is filled with Baz’s usually glitz & glam. From sweeping establishing shots, spinning cameras, frantic movement, a multitude of montages, flashy transitions & of course an incredible soundtrack.
Overall Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is a truely remarkable piece of filmmaking. Whilst Baz’s style is sometimes more flash than substance, which may not be for everyone, Elvis is a film which deserves to be seen on a big screen. Plot wise the film glosses over some key elements of Elvis’ life I was still hooked & on the verge of tears as the film ended.
Do yourself a favour & see The King in action before it’s too late.