Earlier this year, I challenged myself to get outside my entertainment comfort zone and watch different kinds of media than I normally consume. I watched and reviewed a short film, a documentary, and a movie that came out last year that I really wanted to see but just never got around to.
I accomplished all that back in January and was feeling pretty good about my progress…and then I got distracted by prepping for a family trip to Disney World, and then I started a last-minute cosplay project for my local comic con, and then summer movie season hit and I got a little, well, sidetracked.
So here I am, almost half a year later, trying to get back on track. One of my 2022 entertainment goals was to go watch a movie at the theater that wasn’t a franchise film, and going to see Baz Luhrmann’s new Elvis film gave me a chance to check this goal off the list.
Overall, I really enjoyed Elvis. It reminded me of the recent Elton John biopic Rocketman, in that it’s a more stylized production than a straight historical depiction. Which is actually the kind of biopic that I prefer to see for larger-than-life entertainment figures like Elton John or Elvis Presley. These legendary performers are known for their style and swagger, and a film about their life should have plenty of style and swagger too.
Austin Butler does a great job portraying Elvis Presley, navigating the singer’s tragedies and triumphs throughout his too-short life. I didn’t even realize the film used some of Butler’s own vocals for the songs instead of Elvis’ original recordings – the portrayal is that good.
I wasn’t very familiar with Elvis’ infamous manager Colonel Tom Parker, and his manipulative treatment of Elvis was hard to watch. After the movie I went searching for articles to see if the movie had exaggerated the character, and while Tom Hanks’ portrayal may occasionally be a little over the top, Parker was indeed a selfish, abusive man who used Elvis for his own ends.
Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, sometimes Baz Luhrmann veers towards style over substance, but Butler’s lead performance always ends up grounding the film once again.
It’s sad that we lost Elvis far too young, and this film does a good job honoring his legacy as a performer. Part of what motivated me to see this movie was hearing that Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, really liked the film and thought it was a good depiction of her father and his music. It was worth a trip to the theater!