<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>

Directed by Baz Luhrmann. Starring Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, Richard Roxburgh, Helen Thomson, Kelvin Harrison Jr., David Wenham, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Luke Bracey

It starts off interestingly enough with lots of strange cuts and graphics but then soon devolves into a montage of scenes depicting the story behind Elvis and his agent’s troubled relationship and the ‘truth’ – as told by the agent Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) – behind Elvis’s life and death at 42.

Most would enter the theatre thinking they’d be watching a biopic of Elvis’s life, but they’d be wrong. It’s actually told from the point of view of Tom Parker, his agent, who manipulated (not how he narrates it but how they show it really happened) his way into the career of this worldwide sensation. That’t the interesting bit, but the way Baz Luhrmann has chosen to show this to us in the course of this over two and a half hour film is what had many people shifting, yawning and fidgeting in their seats. There’s just too much exposition crammed into a montage of scenes of Elvis’s journey but very little actually said or felt.

Austin Butler who plays Elvis may look the part – somewhat, but he seems like a puppet made to belt out a performance which never gets you to clap or stare in awe at. We feel absolutely nothing for him and his predicament. Mostly because he’s an idiot who can’t make any decisions. His mother tries to run his life but Colonel Parker is a master at trickery and the ‘snow job’. And speaking of Colonel Parker, Tom Hanks has made him into a caricature of some sort with an accent so juvenile it’s almost laughable. Never do I believe the character is anything more than Hanks hamming it up to fit in with the cartoons and the weird collages.

A scene from Elvis

What you do get is a feel of the times, the racial tensions and the way in which music was helping black Americans express themselves and be free. Elvis’s imitation of their style and blatant copying of their songs (cover versions) was his way of changing the world. His ‘vulgar gyrations’ were, unfortunately not appreciated by the police. Wow, if they could only see the performers of today, they’d want to lock them up forever!

There is so much of his life that you don’t get to see or be a part of and I’m not really sure what you get other than: the girls loved Elvis (and even some guys), that he should’ve listened to his mom, that he should’ve sacked the Colonel pronto, and he should have acted in Star Trek (there are several visual references to the Sci-Fi show that was popular at the time).


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