‘Elvis’ Review: Shocking the King Back to Life

His passing is my earliest and most vivid remembrance of Elvis Presley. He was only 42 at the time, but he already gave the impression that he belonged in a much older world. His fame has largely devolved into necrology in the 45 years since. Graceland is a tomb and a place of pilgrimage.

The biopic “Elvis” by Baz Luhrmann, which is a biopic in the same way as “Heartbreak Hotel” is a Yelp review, makes a valiant effort to lift this morbid atmosphere. Luhrmann wants to bring Elvis back to life and imagine who he was in his own time and what he might represent in ours. His relationship with the past has always been irrational and anti-nostalgic.

With jolts of hip-hop (stretched into a suite over the final credits), slivers of techno, and slatherings of synthetic film-score schmaltz, the soundtrack shatters the expected playlist. Elliott Wheeler is the composer and executive music producer. Presley’s fusion of blues, gospel, pop, and country continues to mutate and pollinate in the musical present, according to the film’s auditory message, which is also its best justification for the topic’s continued relevance. There is still a great deal of shaking occurring.

However, “Elvis” stumbles and lurches as a film, falling into a snare that it only partially set for itself. Its portrayal of a distinctly American story about race, sex, religion, and wealth wobbles between flippant revisionism and zombie mythology, undecided as to whether it wants to be an opulent pop fable or a tragic tragedy.

The obscene, disgusting production design is rife with carnival sleaze and Vegas vulgarity, and it was created by Catherine Martin (Luhrmann’s wife and lifelong artistic partner) and Karen Murphy. All of the satin and rhinestones create garish, frenetic sexuality through Mandy Walker’s pulpy, red-heavy photography. This could be mistaken for a vampire film.

It wouldn’t be a complete error. Elvis (Austin Butler) is portrayed as the victim of a strong and cunning bloodsucking devil in the main plot. That would be Col. Tom Parker, who provides the narrative and is portrayed by Tom Hanks with a pile of prosthetic goo, an odd accent, and a grin in his eyes that says, “Yes, it’s really me.” Hanks portrays Parker, who managed Presley for the majority of his career, as a hybrid of Mephistopheles and a small-time con guy.

Parker asserts, “I didn’t kill Elvis,” despite the film’s implication to the contrary. I created Elvis. They were “the showman and the snowman,” equal partners in a long deception that was extremely profitable in the Colonel’s eyes.

The Colonel is kind of a Gatsby-esque character, and Luhrmann’s most recent film was an exuberant, candy-colored, and, in my opinion, widely underestimated rendition of “The Great Gatsby.” He is a self-invented figure, a newcomer to the American scene, and he deals in illusory currencies such as wishful thinking and appearances. Elvis likes to refer to him as an “admiral,” but he is not a colonel, and his real name is not Tom Parker. His origin story is referenced for evil effect, although it is not completely explained. He almost manages to take over the movie already, but if we focused on him too much, he might.

Luhrmann doesn’t seem as interested in the artist as he is in the con guy. However, he is the kind of swindler who can harness the power of art since he himself is sufficiently creative.

The biography “Elvis” of Presley is not particularly enlightening. Everything essential is included, just as it would be in Wikipedia. Elvis is close to his mother, Gladys, and is troubled by the passing of his twin brother, Jesse (Helen Thomson). It’s more difficult for him to get along with his father, Vernon (Richard Roxburgh). The child, who was raised in poverty in Memphis and Tupelo, Mississippi, enters the Sun Records studio when he is 19 years old, where he goes on to light the world on fire. The Army, Priscilla (Olivia DeJongemarriage, )’s Hollywood, a 1968 comeback broadcast, a protracted residency in Las Vegas, Priscilla’s divorce, and the depressing, bloated spectacle of his final years round out his life.

Butler performs admirably in the script’s few off-stage drama scenes, but the majority of the emotional action is telegraphed in Luhrmann’s customary dramatic, frantic style. In front of a crowd, the actor most closely resembles Elvis, just as the movie implies that Elvis was most authentically himself. Butler captures the burning physicality of Elvis the performer, as well as the humor and vulnerability that enthralled the audiences. Those hips don’t lie. The voice cannot be imitated, and the film smartly refrains from attempting to do so by remixing authentic Elvis recordings instead of attempting to reproduce them.

Elvis comes out in a bright pink costume, thick eye makeup, and a gleaming pompadour for his first major performance in a dance hall in Texarkana, Arkansas, where he shares a bill with Hank Snow (David Wenham), Snow’s son Jimmie (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and other country artists. After a few bars, every woman in the room is screaming her lungs out and “having feelings she’s not sure she should appreciate,” as the Colonel puts it, after a man in the audience yells a homophobic insult. Gladys is frightened, and the environment exudes a strong sense of sexualized danger. These maenads are going to dismember Elvis, a contemporary Orpheus. Back in Memphis, Elvis encounters a fellow musician when he witnesses Little Richard (Alton Mason) belting out “Tutti Frutti,” a song he would later copy.

Early rock ‘n’ roll’s sexual anarchy and gender nonconformity fit right into Luhrmann’s aesthetic wheelhouse. Less problematic are its racial issues. Black musicians who offer career advice to “Elvis” include Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Yola), Big Mama Thornton (Shonka Dukureh), and B.B. King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). The boy Elvis (Chaydon Jay) is shown in an early montage peeping into a juke joint where Arthur Crudup (Gary Clark Jr.) is playing “That’s All Right Mama” and catching the spirit at a tent revival at the same time.

There’s no denying that Elvis liked blues and gospel, just like many other white Southerners in his class and time did. (He also enjoyed country and western, a genre that the movie largely ignores.) He also benefited from industrial apartheid and the work of Black artists, and a film that avoids the dialectic of love and theft that sits at the core of American popular music cannot hope to depict the full tale.

James Eastland, a segregationist senator from Mississippi (played by Nicholas Bell), is Elvis’ adversary in the early days. His rants against sex, racial mingling and rock ‘n’ roll are intercut with a stirring rendition of “Trouble.” Later, the murders of Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—who was assassinated “only three miles from Graceland”—devastate Elvis. These instances, which attempt to relate Elvis to the politics of the time, are actually interactions between Elvis and Colonel Parker, who prefers to keep his cash cow out of any unnecessary controversies.

The movie wants us to see Elvis’ conscience at work as well as his desire for creative freedom when he defies the Colonel by breaking out in full hip-shaking gyrations when he’s been told: “not to wiggle so much as a finger” and turning a network Christmas special into a sweaty, intimate, raucous return to form. However, Luhrmann’s understanding of history is too hazy and emotional to give the gestures that much significance.

And Elvis himself is still a mystery, a symbol, and more of a legend than a real person. A short mention is made of his interactions with Vernon, Priscilla, and the “Memphis Mafia” group. His cravings for food, sex, and narcotics hardly ever reach that level.

He was who? The movie doesn’t really offer much of a solution. However, younger audiences, whose direct knowledge of the King is even more limited than mine, might leave “Elvis” knowing at least a little bit about why they should care. In the end, this is a musical, and the music is fantastic. It’s neither a biographical, a horror film, nor a warning fable. Yes, it has been remixed and is full of noises that purists may find dating. However, Elvis Presley was never truly pure—perhaps with the exception of his voice, which, when heard in all its aching, swaggering majesty, makes it clear why it sparked an earthquake.

I’ve given Elvis a lot of thought, as have many other individuals who write about American popular culture or who just grew up in the second half of the 20th century. Despite its imperfections and limitations, “Elvis” compelled me to listen to him as though for the first time.

What do you think?


Written by tara

Ant – The BeginnerBug – The Amature

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