What to Watch This Weekend: Elvis

Elvis

Elvis is the story of The King. Told from the perspective of his late manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), Elvis reviews the upbringing of the legendary musician (as portrayed by Austin Butler) starting with his humble Mississippi roots. Upon discovering him at a county fair, Parker brings Mr. Presley into his fray by leveraging Elvis’ distinctive sound: the by-product of his lifelong exposure to African American music. However, as Elvis ascends on his meteoric rise troubles follow, and others begin to question Parker’s intentions and decisions regarding the performers’ career trajectory.

What works in Elvis is the outstanding performance by Butler and the signature Baz Luhrmann style (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet). Serving as both writer and director, Luhrmann’s biopic oozes glitz and spectacle. Every frame pops with the brightest of colors, shining with a radiance truly befitting one of the greatest showmen ever. And in the heat of that spotlight is Butler who gives 110% to become Elvis in every scene. His singing voice is an uncanny replication, and when coupled with shot-for-shot recreations of some Elvis’ signature on-stage moments (right down to the sequins and gyrations) it almost feels like the legend has been reborn.

On the other side of the showcase are the incredible tender, shy, and vulnerable moments of Elvis seldom explored. Butler will likely receive strong consideration for Best Actor and it is justified. Perhaps the most ringing endorsement of note has come from the remaining members of the Presley family (including his ex-wife Priscilla and daughter Lisa Marie), who have shared resounding enthusiastic approval and praise for Butler’s work.

RELATED: Elvis Trailer | Elvis May Have Left The Building But Austin Butler Is Bringing Him Back To Theaters

People who don’t enjoy the formula of musical biographies are less likely to enjoy Elvis as much as others. While Luhrmann injects his own blend of panache and flair, the general narrative arc is incredibly familiar, even if it’s just reality that Elvis’ life followed that path. The one curious decision of this film is the amount of time it places on Parker. Luhrmann has a strong desire to delve into what was likely a complex and complicated relationship between Presley and his manager, but the execution might feel muddled to some. Hanks’ portrayal feels very close to an almost cartoonish villain and his manipulation of Elvis feels so obvious that one wonders how it persisted. There’s a fascinating message the filmmaker wants to make which becomes clear at the movie’s close, but it may have been an unnecessary aspect to cover with such depth.

Elvis is a highly engaging way to learn more about one of the greatest entertainers of all time. Given how robust and intricate his life was, some may argue that more time could have been spent on the title character over his manager, but Butler’s effort is so strong it’s easier to be thrilled with what we do get.

Elvis is available to stream now on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Google Play

Recommended if you Enjoyed: Rocketman, Moulin Rouge, Walk the Line

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Fox Troilo

Fox serves as an entertainment journalist in the Washington, D.C. When not covering cinematic news for LRM, he critiques films as a member of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Fox also has a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Strategy from Indiana University Bloomington.

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