Elvis (AU- M/UK- 12A/US - PG-13)

In a word: Frenetic

Elvis

Austin Butler stars as Elvis Presley in 'Elvis'. PICTURE: © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Baz Luhrmann, visionary director of Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby and Romeo & Juliet, is back with a story well-suited for his rich, visual style and dynamic musical sensibilities. In a fitting match for the artist and his subject, Elvis brings the legendary “King of Rock and Roll” back to life.

This story is told through the eyes of Colonel Tom Parker (playe by Tom Hanks), the manager, promoter and conman who “made” Elvis (Austin Butler) and exploited his success. The film spans nearly 30 years of Presley’s life from growing up poor in a coloured neighbourhood to his meteoric success as a rock star. The film weaves in his family drama, romance, creative battles, and personal demons in this ambitious biopic.

"Elvis is an intense, frenetic and stylised journey following the ups and downs of Presley’s career. At times the pace seems too fast as Presley's birth, death, marriage and monumental career achievements occur in such rapid succession that the full significance of each moment barely has time to sink in."

Elvis is an intense, frenetic and stylised journey following the ups and downs of Presley’s career. At times the pace seems too fast as Presley's birth, death, marriage and monumental career achievements occur in such rapid succession that the full significance of each moment barely has time to sink in. We catch glimpses of the profound effect Elvis had on culture, politics and race relations. We also see his struggle with his identity, his marriage and his addictions. There is a lot to take in, especially when it is presented with Luhrmann’s sumptuous visual design, fast-paced editing and diverse music selection.

There is a modern feel to the Elvis soundtrack that crosses classic rock with rap, hip hop, country and soul. This is not just a familiar replay of existing songs but a reinterpretation of the Presley playlist. Luhrmann seeks to find added meaning with each song to enhance moments in the story. It is this innovative blend of music and drama which makes for an ingenious and powerful cinema experience. 



Butler delivers outstanding performances of Presley’s younger vocals, matching an authentic recreation of the King’s signature dance moves and stage presence. The soundtrack also features artists such as Eminem, CeeLo Green, Doja Cat, Stevie Nicks and Kacey Musgraves while Presley himself voices songs from later in his career.

Tom Hanks transforms physically and vocally to serve as the villain in this tale. He skillfully manipulates Elvis, turning him into a money-making machine despite the harm it does to his health and psyche. It is ultimately a tragic tale, as we witness the rise and fall of a great talent who was led down a self destructive path. It is a cautionary tale about the damage that can be done by an absent father, especially when replaced by a father figure that has ulterior motives.

Elvis is evidently crafted with much love for the life and legacy of Presley. It is a tribute to the talent and power of a man whose voice reached the whole world and changed music as we know it.