Loyal Elvis Presley fans find the Elvis movie sad, even depressing. But most biopics about the performers are depressing. Even though they claim to tell the factual story of someone’s life, they pretty much follow the same plot.
It goes like this: Young talent is discovered, shines bright for a while, and is shot down by a combination of greedy managers, drug and alcohol abuse, and fake friends. In some cases, the star manages to recover and redeem herself. In others, the star dies tragically early and is mourned by fans.
That, in a nutshell, is the story of Elvis’ life — but not the whole story of Elvis, the 2022 movie.
Most people across the country were introduced to Elvis on a small black and white screen. In the film, he comes to life in a dazzling pink, the color of the first costume he wears.
On stage, he is nervous, barely able to get the lyrics out of a song.
Then he finds his voice. A throbbing rhythm springs from his guitar. Women scream, cry and are filled with an insatiable desire to touch him.
Seeing and hearing this and noting the reaction of the crowd, Colonel Tom Parker identifies exactly what he is seeing.
Actor Austin Butler delivers an energetic performance as Elvis. He studied her carefully, her gestures, her accent, her way of speaking.
And his song.
Elvis superfans say no one can sing like Elvis, and they’re right. Compared to other singers, his vocal range was not large, but he makes the most of every note, makes his voice rasp, soothe or cry, boom and whisper.
Austin Butler could never be Elvis. But it makes you want to listen to more Elvis – and hear more of everything Austin Butler has to offer.
It’s not just Butler’s music that makes the film. Excellent actors and musicians play the roles of early Elvis influences, and director Baz Luhrman incorporates a variety of styles and artists into the score.
As Tom Parker, Tom Hanks plays both narrator and villain. He meets Elvis in a thousand ways, more interested in his own results than in those of his protege.
It is interesting to learn that Elvis wanted to be a serious actor. Anyone who watched his movies as an adult knows that never happened. The fast-paced production was friendlier to the bottom line, and people kept seeing movies with subpar scripts just to see Elvis.
Towards the end of his life, Elvis was offered a role he might have credibly played, that of John Norman Howard, the has-been star of the 1976 version of A Star Is Born, a role that ultimately went to Kris Kristofferson.
Watching Elvis deteriorate from drugs, alcohol, and hubris makes for a painful comparison.
But was Elvis’ downfall Tom Parker’s fault?
At some point in our lives, we have to break away from our first influences and go our own way, however difficult or painful it may be. It’s a story constantly told by artists who go beyond their personal failures and who have long and successful careers.
The movie Elvis reminds us of how awesome and yearning he was for what he could have been.
Now in theaters, the film is rated PG-13 and is 2 hours and 39 minutes long. It’s a bit long, but the film is worth it.