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"Elvis" Review: Another Frenetic Biopic

The biographical film about Elvis Presley, an icon of 20th century pop culture, directed by Australian Baz Luhrmann, has arrived in Latin American cinemas. This is our "Elvis" review .

Frame from the movie 'Elvis'

Photo: YT-Warner Bros. Pictures

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Ángel Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: Reseña de "Elvis": otra frenética biopic

Elvis Presley is a difficult name to ignore, it is almost impossible for someone on earth not to know him. Most of the details of his life are known, or many things are speculated about them, so it has been a risky bet to bring the life of the "King of Rock" to the big screen. Australian director Baz Luhrmann draws on his experience in music-themed films by presenting "Elvis," which is hitting theaters in Latin America.

"Elvis" by Baz Luhrman

"Elvis" is a journey through the life of the "King of Rock" from his origins to his death. This film portrays his childhood in poverty in an African-American community, his discovery, the crucial relationship with his representative, the arrival at the top of fame and the cost that this had in his life. But in Elvis we not only see the professional growth of the artist, but also his impact on American culture, censorship, and his way of confronting it to deepen his mark among the youth that propelled him to immortality eternalizing his legacy.

The film stars Austin Butler ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," "Dune") as Elvis Presley; Tom Hanks ("Forrest Gump," "The Green Mile") as Tom Parker, and Olivia DeJonge ("The Visit," "The Society") as Priscilla Presley, in the title roles. The direction was provided by Baz Luhmann who is known for works such as "Moulin Rouge" (2001) and "Romeo + Juliet" (1996), among others.

An Impersonal Biography of Elvis Presley

Although the film portrays Presley's life, it does not do so from his point of view, but from that of Tom Parker, his representative for practically his entire artistic career. The main plot of the film is about Parker's relationship with Presley, which was characterized by the manager's exploitation of the artist. However, being narrated from Parker's perspective, the character justifies, rightly or wrongly, his actions on the career and life of the celebrity.

Being his representative since youth, it seems that the life of Elvis Presley is explained by the presence of Tom Parker, either publicly or in the shadows. The film portrays Parker's manipulation of Presley to get what he wants from him. Although, it should be noted, that the film also shows the impact of the representative on Elvis's career by maximizing the use of his image, marketing and the media resources available at the time, including television. Both Presley and Parker were pioneers in their respective fields: Elvis as a sex symbol and artist of his gender, while Parker as the mind behind one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

You can also read: To What Extent Must the Original Work be Respected in Adaptations?

Luhrmann's Frenetic Stamp

Elvis has a duration of 2 hours 30 minutes, which makes it a long film. The journey through Elvis's life begins in his childhood and ends with his death, more than three condensed decades. However, the frenetic pace that characterizes Luhrmann's films allows the film not to slow down, the edition reminds of "Romeo + Juliet" (1996) or
"The Great Gatsby" (2013). In that sense, the film delivers remarkably well.

This style also allows you to enter into the ecstasy that he puts on screen during Elvis concerts, in front of crowds of women shouting his name and an artist giving his all. In this sense, the film is spectacular. The agitation and the speed of the edition result in showing an Elvis who lives accelerated, due to the influence of drugs or the workload, which in the end would end his life.

Hits and Misses of "Elvis"

"Elvis" has many successes that make it a sometimes psychedelic experience, the style and language that characterize Luhrmann work in the intensity of Presley's life that he intends to show. The care in the production is also surprising, both in the costumes and settings of the time, as well as in the characterization of Butler and Hanks in their respective roles. Butler manages to get into the role of Elvis without falling into the extreme of being one of the thousands of imitators that exist of him, for his part Hanks represents Tom Parker managing to convince as a trickster and a skilled member of the music industry. American.

As mistakes, the film falls into common places of biographical films, a chronological tour that does not go deep enough due to the fast pace of the film. Similarly, it has the problem of not making a real criticism or reflection on the artist, it puts Elvis's “famous” moments on screen, but without really internalizing the person. It tries to show an Elvis in solitude, emotionally distant from those around him, unable to decide and easily manipulated by his manager. Very little is seen of the rebellious Elvis that we are used to, very few glimpses of it are noticed in the film, which makes it seem gloomy and lacking in character at times. And that is where it is not clear if it is the mere point of view of Tom Parker, who intends to establish himself as the savior and author of Elvis as a celebrity, or if it is the point of view of the director.