Review: The film begins with Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) setting the record straight: he knows he’s called the villain of the story but he made Elvis the megastar that he was, and that he wasn’t responsible for his decline and death — it was his love for you, the fans. Holding the fans accountable feels like the ‘hence proved’ glimpse of the emotional manipulation that Elvis endured for the 20 years of the baffling dynamic between the duo.
Director and writer Baz Luhrmann have used the carte blanche to make this movie much like Elvis did his performances — raw, bold and unapologetic. The picturisation is so exhilarating that it makes you feel as squiffed as a young Elvis when he sees a sleazy performance at a nightclub and immediately after that devotees in a similar reverie at a Black church or like his female fans at his gyration and disarming charm. However, the parts of Elvis’s rise to fame, life in the fast lane, gigs and all the hoopla sometimes make the first half seem like a showreel without a plot. But the crux is any way his equation with the Colonel, loneliness, being so lost and the crumbling relationship with his wife Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge).
Luhrmann has fused furious energy into the film to the extent of making it as chaotic as Elvis’s life. The live performances, the milieu, loss of innocence in America, and the impact of Dr Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy’s assassinations on Elvis have been recreated realistically. Other legends such as BB King and Little Richard’s portrayals are remarkable as well.
There can be only one Elvis Presley, with his staggering good looks and smile, but Austin Butler has an uncanny resemblance to the rock n roll star. He gets the mannerism, mesmerising persona, the rebellion (pelvic thrusts despite being threatened with ban from television, carnal moves and songs at ‘family’ shows, a protest song at a Christmas special and so on), insecurities, and confusion on point. Tom Hanks as the manipulative, opportunistic and vile talent manager gives a spellbinding performance. He gets the nuances of being enigmatic and evil at the same time perfectly. Also, anyone who doesn’t know that his look is all prosthetics and fat suit may end up believing that he has gained weight for the role.
Your heart goes to Elvis for his vulnerability and naivete and it breaks every time he excitedly says, ‘The Snowman strikes again’ for the Colonel as the manager gets him supposedly good deals. The ending is breathtaking when the real footage of Elvis’s last performance of Unchained Melody is played. It’s seamlessly slipped in and you can’t tell one from the other.
The soundtrack will have you ‘all shook up,’ with a mix of Elvis’s vocals and remixes by Eminem, CeeLo Green, Chris Isaak, Doja Cat and many others. The hip-hop versions are outstanding and perfectly done.
The two-and-a-half hours of Elvis will fly by with incredible vigour. But the outing makes you feel like you’re staying at ‘the Heartbreak Hotel’ and you can’t check out anytime soon!