davidehrlich’s review published on Letterboxd:
“It doesn’t matter if you do 10 stupid things so long as you do one smart one,” Colonel Tom Parker advises us near the start of Baz Luhrmann’s utterly deranged musical biopic about the King of Rock & Roll, but even a ratio that forgiving would still leave “Elvis” roughly 370 “smart ones” short. If only this 159-minute eyesore — a sadistically monotonous super-montage in which a weird Flemish guy manipulates some naïve young greaser over and over and over again until they both get sad and die — were gracious enough to be as short in any other respect.
Luhrmann may be one of the most irrepressible maximalists the movies have ever known, and his new opus is perhaps the most visually anarchic Hollywood film since the Wachowskis’ 2008 “Speed Racer.” But it’s hard to find even ironic enjoyment in something this high on its own supply; something much less interested in how its namesake broke the rules than it is in how its director does, and something tirelessly incapable of finding any meaningful overlap between the two.
Indeed, “Elvis” is so adoring of its style and so disinterested in its subject that “Baz” would have been a more fitting title for it. Why does a deliriously basic musical biopic spinning through time at 60 million RPM take longer to give Elvis Presley the “Bohemian Rhapsody” treatment than Luhrmann needed to adapt “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Great Gatsby,” or the entire continent of “Australia”? Because the “Moulin Rouge!” director — despite his obvious affection for Elvis, and his good-faith effort to worship the rock god as he saw fit — can’t help but leverage Presley’s iconography in a similarly self-serving way as Parker exploited his talent.
Unmoored from the narrative guardrails of a Puccini opera, a Shakespeare tragedy, or one of the tightest novels of the 20th century, Luhrmann is free to remix Elvis’ life and times into a Las Vegas revue that spotlights the filmmaker’s singular genius while also painfully enabling his own addiction to excess. Even in tribute, this maddening jukebox musical only sees Presley as a means to an end — as a hip-shaking puppet on a string. Which perhaps explains why Luhrmann was compelled to make Colonel Tom Parker the main character of his Elvis movie, “Elvis,” which the trailers had suggested was about someone named Elvis.