Elvis – Film Review

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Writers: Baz Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce, and Jeremy Doner

Starring: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, and Kelvin Harrison Jr

Rating: ★★★★

It’s been nine years since Baz Luhrmann’s last film, The Great Gatsby, and he’s back with a biopic of Elvis. It’s everything you’d hope for from a Luhrmann film about Elvis. It’s stunning visuals from start to finish, a blend of musical genres, and a surprisingly moving look at the ‘King of Rock and Roll’.

The film starts in a whirlwind, showing Elvis (Austin Butler) as a child discovering gospel music, his start in music, and his downfall all at the same time. Elvis’s story is told from the viewpoint of his manager, Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), who is trying to convince us that he wasn’t responsible for Elvis’s death, while he’s on his own deathbed in 1997. It’s a chaotic opening, showing how Elvis was losing control of his own life to others, but it perfectly sets the scene for how the rest of the story will be told.

You know going into a Baz Luhrmann film that this is going to be filled with a really strong visual flair that makes everything exciting and fresh. The music of Elvis is mixed with modern takes on the songs, as well as blending genres in the process. There’s unique and offbeat scene transitions, great cinematography, and a pace that makes the over two-and-a-half-hour film feel like no time at all has passed when it ends.

It’s a visual feast from the stage shows to Elvis being given his own comic book style origin story, with his family’s past shown as panels of a comic. Still, it’s more grounded than some of Luhrmann’s previous films, even though there’s a lot of dramatic licence taken with the events. If you’re going into this to see a ‘tell all’ biopic, you will probably be disappointed. There’s a lot of fictional sprinkles added to the truth, as well as large moments omitted. It’s all done in Luhrmann’s punch style, so it doesn’t matter.

Austin Butler is outstanding as Elvis. Unlike so many other people to play the ‘King of Rock and Roll’, Butler doesn’t come across like he’s doing an impression or playing a caricature. Instead, it’s an authentic and fully realised portrayal. Likewise, Tom Hanks is phenomenal as Col. Tom Parker, presenting him as slimy and manipulating, while also not an all-out comic book villain. There’s a hint of humanity underneath the selfish exterior.

One of the main focuses is on Elvis’s influences, such as the church gospel music he grew up with and the music of B.B. King (played by Kelvin Harrison jr.) and Little Richard (Alton Mason). The film also makes the argument that Elvis was only able to be successful because he was white, while black artists with similar music weren’t. The racism of 1950s America is not shied away from, with segregated crowds at concerts, and the instant dismissal of Elvis as people assumed he wasn’t white.

Elvis does a great job at showing how the people around him were taking advantage, without him even really knowing. He’s isolated even while surrounded with people, and only really feels a connection with others when on stage. It’s a really sad story and the film really makes you feel for him. It’s not trying to be a documentary but gives you a real feel of what he might have been like, while also contextualising the history and influence of his music.  

Thanks for reading! If you liked my review, please subscribe to never miss a post:

About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
This entry was posted in film reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Elvis – Film Review

  1. Ashley, from what I read pre-opening it did sound like the movie would be as you noted, putting into context the events surrounding his life, which eventually found their way into his music. Got a chance to visit Graceland years ago. He had an amazing career. I like Baz’s work so I probably will check out his take on Elvis.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. chloetalksfilm says:

    Austin Butler and Olivia DeJonge were outstanding in this movie! I loved this film so much, though it could have been shorter.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Tony Briley says:

    Thanks for the review. I might wait until this one streams, but it is on my must see list. I wanted to see it beforehand, but after reading this, I want to see it more. Thanks for an insightful review.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s