By: Adam Freed
The low hanging irony that cannot be lost on audiences is that Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis begins with the excitement of a series of pelvic gyrations, but eventually ends up bloated and overworked.
For those who proudly own Graceland season passes, there is enough in this film to satiate their desire to memorialize the American icon. For those only mildly curious, either in the work of the aforementioned frenetic filmmaker, or more likely, in the performance of generational icon Tom Hanks as Elvis’ parasitic manager, mild disappointment may ensue. Hanks works tirelessly to overcome the trappings of a static character scripted as thin as the pages on which it was typed. Seemingly the more we learn about Hanks’ Colonel Tom Parker, the more we already knew.
Part of the tragedy of this film is that it touches on so many important moments that provide backing vocals to Elvis’ storied career, that it spends almost no significant time with any of them. Racial unrest as well as the assassinations of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, just to name a few, are presented only as scenery for Austin Butler’s engaging Elvis to view from the rear window of a passing Cadillac.
Elvis the film cannot possibly approach conveying the gravity and impact of Elvis the performer. The movie is at its best in its first act as Luhrmann’s trademark kaleidoscopic visuals and breakneck pace capture Parker ensnaring Presley from what seems like the haunted carnival set of Guillermo Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley”. Where this film wins is in its worthy tribute to the numerous black musicians who, as Elvis admits repeatedly, had the greatest influence on his career.
This film is an undersized sequined jumpsuit covered liberally in rhinestones. It may be right for some, but is probably better left on the rack.