Baz Luhrmann's 'Elvis' - The Review -
Baz Luhrmann Elvis

Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ – The Review

by Paul Cashmere on June 8, 2022

in News

Biopics have a pretty shoddy name with thanks to the fictitious plots of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rapsody’ and Elton John’s ‘Rocketman’. Those two in particular ignored fact and instead decided to rewrite history. Baz Luhrmann should be congratulated for ‘Elvis’. This movie can be presented as a documentary.

Baz Luhrmann has respected the history and legacy of Elvis Presley and drilled into the person, the sacrifice and the cost of becoming the world’s most famous star.

At 2 hours and 39 minutes, it is also an epic but that allows Luhrmann to give depth to the storyline.

‘Elvis’ the movie starts the story of Elvis Presley from the perspective of his manager, a former circus snake-oil salesman who went by the man Colonel Tom Parker. Parker was a fraud, a circus conman who was an expert in emptying people’s wallets. In real life he was Andreas van Kiurk, a Dutch illegal immigrant to the USA who faked a back story to live his lie.

The excellent and sadly believable Parker character is played by Tom Hanks. This is possibly the first character Hanks has played you will hate. Parker lied to keep Presley working jobs that did not inspire him (like the constant b-grade movies and a five-year Vegas stint) all because as an illegal immigrant if he left the USA he could not return.

Col. Tom Parker treated Presley as a product. Luhrmann captures their relationship perfectly. Parker never valued Elvis, the music or the creativity. It was all about pushing product for profit which is why today there is no Elvis album ever cited as a great moment in rock like a Beatles ‘Sgt Pepper’ or a Stones ‘Sticky Fingers’. Elvis albums in the 60s were merch products to sell movies, in the 70s Parker would pop them out every time 30 minutes of music was recorded with no concern for consistency. It is incredible for as big as Elvis was, he never had his Sgt Pepper.

The real Elvis influences were in his front and centre of the Presley DNA and Luhrmann portrays them generously. Gary Clark Jr plays blues singer Arthur Cruddup who wrote ‘That’s Alright Mama’, Big Mama Thornton who had the original ‘Hound Dog’ is played by Shonka Dukureh, Alton Mason is Little Richard, the parallel with the rise of BB King is presented by Kelvin Harrison. Luhrmann doesn’t miss the fact that there was a whole culture change going on around Elvis.

The Elvis band is also an important part of the story so Luhrmann includes Luke Bracey as Jerry Schilling and Xavier Samuel as Scotty Moore to embrace the insider aspect of the story.

The Elvis family, Helen Thomson as his mother Gladys and Richard Roxborgh as his father Vernon, are crucial to the molding of Elvis. Then the not so known Austin Butler as Elvis and Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla don’t distract because you know them from somewhere.

This was a big role for Butler. He doesn’t pay Elvis as an Elvis impersonator. By not looking like Elvis, Butler brings makes the character believable through the emotion by playing a talented, manipulated character.

The modernized soundtrack also gives a rearview feel to the movie. With artists like Doja Cat, Eminem, Kasey Musgraves and Stevie Nicks given modern interpretations of come of the more classic Elvis songs, we are presented a story of the past with a feel of today.

The tragedy of the Elvis story is that when he thinks he is winning, he is losing. The manipulative Parker always manages to keep Elvis thinking he is making the decisions and acting in his best interests while selfishly always acting for himself. Even when Elvis eventually fires him after the 68 Comeback special, Parker manipulates Presley to continue with his services which he does … until it eventually kills him.

The final scenes using actual footage of the last performance of Elvis show have Parker took him to the point of no return. Parker basically wore Elvis out. That is why he died.

‘Elvis’ is a tragic story. Baz Luhrmann does it justice by giving us the truth.

‘Elvis’ opens in Australia on 23 June 2022.

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