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  • Gareth Crook

Elvis (2022) - 6/10

I like Elvis. I like Tom Hanks. I like Baz Luhrmann films. One of those isn’t true. You can decide at the end which. Aside the hits and the basics that most people know, I couldn’t tell you many details about the life of Elvis Presley. I’m hoping though that this isn’t another Bohemian Rhapsody, glossing over the cracks. The opening titles tell you this is going to be glossy. It’s Baz Luhrmann after all. Subtle it is not. So Tom Hanks in a lot of prosthetic make up and a terrible accent talks us through his plan to make a star, why he shouldn’t be blamed for killing him, all whilst cementing a bit of racist Americana. It’s a bit paint by numbers. Young Elvis after a string of bad luck strikes the family, finds himself exposed to church revivals and blues music. Suggesting that’s the source of his power, quite literally almost. A stretch at best. This wastes no time cutting to the chase though. Elvis (Austin Butler) bursts on the scene (like Micah Richards) and Colonel Tom Parker (Hanks) is there to witness it. Butler is every part the star. This is a big part and he nails it. Slicked back hair and brimming with confidence as he struts the stage and the streets. Blues pouring from the windows in the black neighbourhood, although mixed with modern beats because again, Luhrmann. He does remind me of Travolta in Grease, but I got passed it. An Elvis nut would tell you how accurate or inaccurate this is, but I’ve a sense that calling this a biography is a push. Elvis is whisked up by Parker and taken on the road. Parker the carnival man is keen to show off his new toy all over the south. It’s bright, colourful and pacy, smoke and mirrors. Headache inducing. Not for Parker though, his mind is clear. Promise the world, bag the star. It’s all crassly choreographed, but to be fair wasn’t Elvis and isn’t fame, celebrity culture, all just vacuous nonsense. The music though. That’s solid. It’s rock solid and used here to great effect. The combination of the songs and Butlers dancing is magnetic. Sex sells after all. As does controversy. Race fuelled controversy at that and Elvis hits a snag as he’s required to clean up his act. That doesn’t work though and has the opposite reaction. Parker is a shill, Presley though is painted here as the rebel. Sticking it to the white supremacists. I’ll admit this is not the Elvis I knew, but I’m happy to be corrected and entertained. The two fingered salute performance of ‘Trouble’ is pure cinematic joy. Even if the timeline doesn’t work. It’s a rollercoaster, packing a lot in. Flashbacks in Parker’s memory rushing us through the pivotal points. Army Elvis. The killing of Martin Luther King. Christmas Specials and Vegas. There’s a lot to pack in, but do we really need nearly three hours. No, no we don’t. It’s indulgent. Again, Luhrmann. If it wasn’t for the music and Butler I’d be out. It’s still a struggle in places though. Butler isn’t just an impersonator, although he does that well. He carries this. He’s not much choice really. His performance is about the only credible thing in it. Now I do love Mr Hanks, how can you not, but this caricature is a bit much to take. Parker is painted as part control freak, part duddering old fool. Either way he’s annoying. I think Luhrmann has chosen to pitch him as the villain counter to Elvis’ comic book hero. There’s flashes of sincerity in Hanks performance, that just makes all the rest all the more frustrating. Like Elvis’ frustration. Trapped in America, like that’s a good thing. It’s a tragic story. It is fun though. Overblown. Entertaining. It deserves the credit it gets. It’s forgettable though. I won’t ever watch it again and you’ve probably guessed now that I don’t like Baz Luhrmann films and this hasn’t changed my mind. Too garish. Too tasteless. Instead this just makes me want to watch a good documentary. The Searcher looks like it might be decent, but it’s three and a half hours and I really don’t think I can take any more Elvis.



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