Rating: 12A Cast: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson and Richard Roxburgh. Directed by Baz Luhrmann. Written by Baz Luhrmann, Sam Bromell and Craig Pearce. Length: 159mins.
The release date for Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ has arrived and it’s sure to get audiences dancing. We seem to be going through a phase of legendary musician biopics and this one falls slightly out of the framework pattern but that isn’t a surprise to those who know the previous work of Luhrmann. This is the story of Elvis’s dramatic rise to superstardom and the mistreatment he suffered at the hands of those he trusted.
The film opens with a voiceover by Elvis’s former manager, the infamous Colonel Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks (unrecognisable beneath layers of prosthetics and unflattering makeup). After sharing details of his gambling addiction, he finishes with the ominous reveal: ‘some people say I robbed Elvis … some even say I killed him’. We get the basics of Presley’s career: the early days of hardship, the profound influence of black music, the blues and gospel; a glimpse at his days on the country circuit before signing for Parker, his huge success, military service in Germany, marriage to Priscilla, a flash of Hollywood, the Comeback Special and the long Vegas goodbye…considering this is the basics and not really in too much detail, it’s an awful lot. With a run time of 2hr39 it’s a bit of a slog but having said this I would have no idea what you can cut. The challenge of a biopic is that audiences need to see a journey, but when the journey includes so much it’s inevitably going to be a lengthy watch.
This is a very technical film that screams awards season which is unusual for a movie released at this time of year. I hope that it is recognised for what it is as the performances, scoring, editing and direction are bold and deserve acknowledgement. I do feel like some audiences might be disappointed with Elvis – not because it’s bad, it’s actually quite brilliant. It’s just that the trailer presents a movie that is very appealing to the masses. It suggests a straight forward story with a few well known songs and it’s much more complex than that. It’s full of interesting cuts, colours and a wonderfully fused score of music of the era and contemporary hits.
Elvis is a brilliant film, it’s not one that I would watch again but I would definitely recommend that people give it a watch. It’s another reminder that the grass is not always greener on the other side and that when people appear to have it all – there’s often a lot going on that isn’t known.