With a super-star like Elvis Presley, and a spectacle, maximalist director like Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, The Great Gatsby), one would think Elvis would be in the right hands. But, the dazzle of Elvis fades quickly in this monotonous biopic of the rise and fall of the King of Rock.
While some believe Baz Luhrmann is a true auteur of modern cinema, maybe it’s time to re-think that. The problem wasn’t the flashiness of Baz Luhrmann’s style that got to me, but it was the substance that fell short with this one.
Spanning over 20 years of Presley’s life in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, the movie focuses on his rise and fall as a singer and a movie star.
During a CinemaCon panel, Baz Luhrmann said that he did rely on historical accuracy but with a slightly elevated flair. He said that unlike his earlier film Moulin Rouge!, “it’s more grounded and I guess right out of the gate more accessible to audiences.” Luhrmann said that he doesn’t exactly see the film as an Elvis biopic. “It’s really for me about America in the 50s and 60s and 70s. If you want to talk about America in the 50s and 60s and 70s, at the center of culture, for the good the bad and the ugly, was Elvis. Shakespeare would explore culture through kings.”
Maybe the movie bit off more than it could chew, and being told from the perspective of Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), Presley’s manager, only hurt the narrative. Not to mention that this may be the worst performance given by the legendary Tom Hanks. I’m sorry, but this is facts.
According to Luhrmann, a four-hour cut of the film exists, but I don’t think anyone wants it. At over 2.5 hours, one starts to think that the editors of Elvis didn’t really know what they were doing.
Priscilla Presley reportedly told Baz Luhrmann, “If my husband was here today, he’d say, ‘Hot damn, you are me,'” with regard to how well Austin Butler captures him (The Hollywood Reporter). And she’s right. Despite mostly forgettable supporting actors, and ignoring Tom Hanks’ awful performance, Butler carries this film.
The major problem with Elvis is that it left me still wondering who the real Presley really was. Being told from the perspective of Colonel Tom Parker was a major misstep in explaining the life of Elvis Presley, and with such a dazzling director like Luhrmann, I’m left wondering wtf happened here?