Baz Luhrmann… thank you very much!
There are certain films you can watch and instantly be able to recognise the director behind the camera. Scorsese, Spielberg and Burton leave their fingerprints all over their work.
Within seconds of watching Elvis, I had no doubt that I was watching a piece of art written and directed by the filmmaker behind the likes of Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby.
Much like in 2013’s Gatsby, the main focus here in not on the title character, but one that has a close connection with him – as the spotlight heavily shines on Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker (played by an almost unrecognisable Tom Hanks).
The real-life partnership resulted in a complicated and turbulent relationship, which is depicted throughout the near 2 hours 40 minutes run-time (yes, it’s long!). Many say that Parker manipulated the singer while the manager sees it rather more simplistically – without him there would be NO Elvis.
Is Parker the villain? Make up your own mind.
Speaking of the King of Rock n’ Roll, I’d like to stress that Elvis Presley does still feature heavily throughout. Okay, not quite as much as the manager, but enough to not have you feeling mislead by the title.
Austin Butler (Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood) was phenomenal as Presley. On that screen, he did not feel like somebody that was impersonating the music legend... it felt like he WAS the titular character himself. A star is truly born here and I’ll be extremely surprised if Butler does not win an Oscar for the performance. As for multi-Oscar winner Hanks, he was as charming as ever – even if he was playing the unfamiliar ‘antagonist’ role this time round.
If you’re wondering if you need to be an Elvis fan to appreciate the film, I genuinely don’t think so. This character-driven journey is interesting enough to keep you thrilled throughout whether you’re a fan or not. This is not a movie that relies on the hit songs to make it work – they’re more of an added bonus.
The thing I loved about this film is also the thing I disliked. Hear me out. Baz Luhrmann is known for dialling up the energy to ‘eleven’. This mostly works great but 160 minutes of that level of energy left me mentally exhausted by the time the credits rolled. At least thirty minutes could have been edited out – as a Little Less Conversation would have been welcomed.
But with sensational production values, Messrs Luhrmann, Hanks – and especially Butler – still got me All Shook Up with this biographical masterclass.
ESP Rating: 4/5
Showcase Cinema De Lux Peterborough, Out Now
Cast: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia Dejonge, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Luke Bracey, Helen Thomson, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Xavier Samuel, Kodi Smit-Mcphee & Anthony Lapaglia
Running Time: 2 Hrs 39 Mins
Director: Baz Luhrmann
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