Our editor is a huge Elvis fan though as they’ve gone on in their lives they couldn’t be more different because whilst one became a bloated burger chomping, drink addled wreck the other had a residency in Las Vegas singing his greatest hits – (‘You’re fired!’ –Ed). This latest Elvis biopic is the latest star spangled work from director Baz Luhrmann and is a s glittery as we’ve now come to expect with bravura editing, superb productions values and gorgeously photographed.
From the start a voiceover that turns out to be his manager Colonel Tom Parker claims, ‘I didn’t kill him, I made him!’ and is made as a riposte to accusations since the singer’s death that Parker was n parasite on the singer’s fame and in turn money earning capacity. It’s a voiceover that periodically crops up throughout the film which plays as a biopic with Austin Butler expertly capturing Elvis from a young man and into his prime and through to his Vegas years and yet it’s that last chapter of his life where he remains as possibly one of the most handsome men who ever lived rather than the corpulent cape wearing crooner living off peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and the myriad of impersonators seem to ignore dressing like this despite most of them being of such morbidly obese stature that it’s a surprise they don’t end their own tribute act by dying on a toilet too.
Luhrmann has sprinkled all of this with his usual glittery pizazz, zippy mixes, whip pans and just about every film making tool at his command and it makes for exhilarating viewing certainly early on when Elvis whips up audiences into an orgiastic hysteria and it easy to see why the singers performance swept everyone along. But there is too much that is overlooked – the underage Priscilla is ignored (and in the role Olivia DeJonge has barely a handful of lines throughout almost to the point of invisibility in the film), the singer’s Republican leanings are absent as is his rocking up at the Whitehouse to meet Nixon. His lengthy affair with Ann Margaret too is oddly overlooked.
But the story of Elvis the most successful singer ever is well known but what is less known is the clearly toxic relationship between him and his manager Colonel Tom Parker a Svengali figure, an entirely PR savvy manager knowing that value of merchandising putting the singer’s image on just about anything no matter how tenuous a connection it had to the singer. It’s a missed opportunity because a Hanks led film with Elvis in support exploring the strangle hold he had over the singer has never really been satisfactorily covered and this was an ideal opportunity. Luhrmann’s epic film, and at 2 hours 39 minutes its as bloated as the singer’s waistline, plays far more as a straight biopic and documenting what is already in the public domain and the recreation of the 1968 Comeback Special is faithful to what remains an outstanding performance in the singer’s career and does feature a glimpse at what the Colonel was doing behind the scenes with Elvis for once performing only what he wanted to sing.
Elvis was only 42 years old when he died and having had his hopes of touring outside the US crushed by Parker (due to the fake Colonel who was Dutch and apparently illegally in the US believing that if he went abroad he would be rumbled trying to get back into the States.). Parker’s parasitic relationship is at the core of the film and Hanks should have been front and centre but instead we have Luhrmann’s typical bravura that has much style but little substance.
Watch the Elvis trailer HERE
Watch Baz Luhrmann, Tom Hanks & Austin Butler introduce the film to a London audience HERE