Why hasn’t a great Elvis biopic been made yet? Well, Austin Butler wasn’t around to play the King of Rock and Roll. At the center of Baz Luhrmann’s burgeoning pop epic Elvis, a film as opulent and grand as the talent and taste of a king, Butler shows off a completely transformed, completely committed and stellar image of Elvis Presley. The rumors are true: Elvis lives in Austin Butler.
Swirling around Butler’s bravura performance is a manic, maximalist, cut-up musical biopic in which Luhrmann defines Elvis as a stunning inflection point between ancient and modern, carnival and television, a figure of pure spectacle. who threatened to destroy the status quo – and did so. Luhrmann takes Elvis Presley’s legacy turned into a Las Vegas joke and reminds us how dangerous, sexy and outspoken revolutionary he once was. He makes Elvis relevant again.
Butler leaves it all on screen, bringing Elvis’ raw, unbridled sexual charisma to the stage. He is jaw dropping, almost wild in his depiction of Elvis’ most memorable musical performances, from his early days to his 1968 comeback special, to his Vegas show, and Luhrmann films and edits these scenes to capture more than just Butler’s performance with close range, but also the strong influence that Elvis had on his fans.
Written by Luhrmann, Jeremy Doner, Sam Bromell and Craig Pierce, the film squeezes Elvis’ entire career into two hours and 39 minutes of breathtaking filmmaking, focusing on the energy and emotional rhythms of Elvis’ journey as well as his exploitation by the hands. his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks, heavily made up with prosthetics). In addition, Luhrmann edits with a heavy hand in editing to constantly remind us of Elvis’ roots and motivations, as well as the cultural importance of his pioneering career. Contemporary music links his performance of black music to the popularity of contemporary hip hop; excerpts from hits by the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears remind us that Elvis paved the way for teen idols, and that his story is also a cautionary tale.
The first part of the film, dedicated to his breakthrough as a pretty white boy from Memphis who sang the blues, fast, free and dynamic, is a whirlwind of honky-tonks, tent revival, Beale Street blues and country music shows. The tempo is frantic, he can’t sit still, just like Elvis can’t sit still when he sings overwhelmed by the music. Cameraman Mandy Walker’s camera never stops moving, pulling us into this whirlwind of newfound glory, the car’s wheels spinning faster than Elvis can keep up.
The speed and overstimulation are intoxicating and intoxicating, contrasting sharply aesthetically and emotionally with the next chapters in Elvis’ career. The Hollywood days are a montage of color and costume, a fake facade as it is sold to corporations and net profits, and in the last part, Elvis is stupefied and oppressed, devoid of color and life, isolated in his “golden cage”. at the International Hotel in Vegas.
The story is told from Colonel Parker’s point of view, a curious choice, though one that serves a larger narrative purpose. From his point of view, we understand the Elvis spectacle; The Colonel almost licks his lips at the sight of this newest carnival attraction: a handsome, erotic, racially-crossing young man with a gruff chant and pitch-black forelock that can make teenage girls scream. With visions of merchandise dancing in his head, The Colonel turns Elvis into a global icon, but, according to Elvis, at every turn the Colonel has tamed the singer’s defiance and cunning, forcing him to participate in cheesy movie musicals and relentless touring.
He is the architect of Elvis’ downfall, extracting what he could, clipping his wings, polishing that culture-changing force and offering him as an addictive piece of entertainment, a soul of talent thrown into the money-making machine and the earth. into dust. The Colonel’s narration and Hanks’ cartoonish vicious performance serve as a signed guilty plea as Luhrmann presents us with Elvis as a Christlike figure, a rock and roll holy martyr crucified on the cross of capitalism and greed.
While Butler humanizes him, Luhrmann deifies Elvis and claims that he had much more radical potential, both musically and politically, than he was allowed to. His rolling hips and shaking knees were not just an omen of coming boy bands and pop icons—Elvis Taz threatened to usher in a sexual revolution and simultaneously desegregate the South, making rock and roll mainstream. when unleashing the very first “cultural war”. Elvis is not just a resurrection of the Elvis myth, it is the resurrection of the king himself. Did you leave the building? Not if Baz Luhrmann has something to say about it.
★★★1/2 (out of 4)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for substance abuse, profanity, obscene material and smoking)
How to watch: Friday in theaters