Doesn’t it seem like there have been an unusual amount of music biopics recently? From Rocket Man to Bohemian Rhapsody and from Respect to Judy, the 21st century – particularly post-2010 – seems to have been characterised by a high volume of them. Whilst some clearly work better than others, one thing tends to ring true about the majority of them: their lead actors are always outstanding. Elvis is no different, and perhaps the best example of that yet.
Baz Luhrmann‘s latest features up-and-comer Austin Butler in the lead role, detailing the life of Elvis Presley from his early days as a young, impressionable child of 10 years old, right up until his untimely death in 1977. The majority of the story is told through narration by Tom Hanks as the villainous Colonel Tom Parker, which serves as an interesting vehicle for the film’s narrative.
I’ll be real with you here: Baz Luhrmann unabashedly made me bawl my eyes out IN THE FRONT ROW OF A CINEMA SCREENING. Fuck you, Baz. I can honestly say that I did not expect to feel so emotionally destroyed by this movie, but by God, I definitely came out of that theatre in floods of tears.
Like most people, when I first heard that Butler had been cast by the inimitable Elvis, I thought “nah, that won’t work; he looks nothing like him.” Well, I could not have been more wrong. There was such a danger here that Butler could have just been another Elvis impersonator, but every second he was on screen, that man was Elvis. An incredible performance that will no doubt be award-nominated tenfold and deservedly so. It is possibly one of the best performances of the past decade, if not the century, and that is no exaggeration.
On the whole, however, Elvis is not a perfect movie. Like most biopics, it is extremely long and sometimes repeats itself a little too much. Whilst I appreciate that there’s much to cover, sometimes one or two tweaks wouldn’t have gone amiss. My biggest negative though? (And I can’t believe I’m about to say this.) Tom Hanks. Though his performance is decent barring that baffling accent, the mere fact that it was Tom Hanks was consistently distracting. Casting an unknown may have been a better choice here, and I fear his inclusion was purely a marketing technique on this occasion.
When the film does get it right, it really gets it right. There are shades of Moulin Rouge in both the visual editing and the sound editing, and the musical sequences are truly a phenomenal spectacle. A big highlight was the scene in which Elvis personally directs his whole orchestra, which really highlighted what a seminal talent he was and the fact that his knowledge of music really was special.
On a personal note, some of the first songs I ever remember hearing were by Elvis. My earliest memories include my Dad singing Blue Suede Shoes to me in his best Presley voice. The Wonder of You played in the background the first time I kissed my wife. Oh, and I’m a Sunderland fan. ‘Wise men say’ and all that… So, you could say that I’m an Elvis fan and I am a little biased, but Luhrmann has done an admirable job with such an iconic subject if you ask me.
Clearly, when I mentioned not expecting to be so emotionally invested here, I was kidding myself. Long live The King.
Elvis is currently screening in most UK cinemas.
TQR Category Ratings:
Performance: (it has to be a 5 – anything less would be an insult to Austin Butler)
Costume & Set Design:
Overall Enjoyability Rating: