Saturday 4 February 2023

Movie Review: Elvis (2022)

Genre: Biographical Music Drama
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge
Running Time: 159 minutes

Synopsis: Raised in a poor black Memphis neighbourhood, a young Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) records a minor hit in 1954. Savvy carnival huckster Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) recognizes the commercial potential of a white singer embracing black music energy and performing with unbridled sex appeal. Parker rapidly steers Elvis' career to the pinnacle of the burgeoning rock 'n' roll movement, horrifying self-appointed guardians of morality. After an overseas stint in the military where he meets bride-to-be Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge), Elvis attempts to achieve screen stardom, but the Colonel has his own agenda.

What Works Well: Director, co-writer, and co-producer Luhrmann delivers a razzle dazzle spectacular. Split screens, stark lights, vivid colours, outlandish costumes, and energetic musical performances capture Elvis' stature on a large canvas. Luhrmann develops and sustains three strong themes: the influence of black culture on Elvis' music; the scandalous shock value of his pelvic gyrations on an entire generation; and most of all, the Colonel's Svengali manipulations. With a surprisingly deft touch, the final act also explores the unbearable weight of superstardom on a husband and father. Austin Butler is stellar, while Tom Hanks is deliciously hammy.

What Does Not Work As Well: The pacing is measured and the scope epic, but the running time remains longer than needed. Beyond Elvis, the Colonel, and to a lesser extent Priscilla, the supporting characters - and supporting cast - are largely anonymous.

Conclusion: A suitably lavish royal salute to the King.

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