Elvis ★★★½


Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to write a super lengthy review like I was planning to for this so I’ll shorten it. The aspects to praise of Baz Luhrmann’s music biopic are all worthy of high praise and the aspects to criticize are, contrastingly, incredibly hard to look past. Austin Butler perfectly embodies Elvis’ attitude and voice and actually sings on his own for the songs during the first half of the film. He fully transforms into the character and is obviously in need of an Oscar nom. Baz Luhrmann’s direction is absolutely bonkers (as one would expect considering his work on “Moulin Rouge!” and “The Great Gatsby”) with rapid editing (done by Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond) full of an absurd amount of added in extravagance. Just looking at the poster and logo for the film should be enough to tell you who directed this. The sound design (Michael Minkler) and cinematography (Mandy Walker) are also fantastic, which really helps with feeling invested in the story.

What takes me out of it sometimes though is the unnecessarily long length. At 159 minutes, it’s about 30 minutes too long for the rather standard and simple story of a singer’s rise to fame and then fall. The other most major issue (and it’s a big one) is whatever the hell Tom Hanks is doing as Elvis’ corrupt producer, Colonel Tom Parker. He’s doing what feels like a comedy bit while Austin Butler is fully engrossing us. Hanks’ character telling the story also is a misstep in the writing and often leads to the story losing track of who it’s really about (the man whose name is in the title). I also wish the writing could go deeper with Elvis’ emotions because although Austin Butler does as good as he can do here, the writing could have given him more to work with. I always wanted to feel just a bit more of the pain he was experiencing. 

Olivia DeJonge’s (“The Visit”) portrayal of Elvis’ wife, Priscilla, is another standout performance here and even the brief appearance of B.B. King is a delight thanks to Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s memorably delivered dialogue with Elvis. This is the most energetic biopic I’ve ever seen and the central Elvis performance is truly remarkable so it’s definitely worth the watch if you can handle the lengthy runtime and the brutal miscast that is Tom Hanks. 

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