Warner Bros. Pictures 2022
By HOWARD MCQUITTER II
Elvis died tragically at the age of 42 on August 16, 1977. But when he died, the rock
star had recorded about 700 songs and sold more than one billion records worldwide, which was more than anyone in the record industry.
Australian director Baz Luhrmann’s (William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet , Moulin Rouge! , The Great Gatsby ) new film project is Elvis, starring Austin Butler who plays the character Elvis in exceptional fashion. Austin’s performance is worthy of an Oscar nomination in a leading role.
The film starts with Elvis (Chaydon Jay)as a boy in Tupelo, Mississippi, who is exposed to Black music – both profane and gospel – living in a mostly Black neighborhood. Those were the days: 1940s, the pre-Civil Rights era when de jure segregation was solidly in place.
Fast forward to Elvis’ teen years on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, where he mingles
among the Black people going to and fro from the clubs. In one of the clubs he meets B.B. King
(Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and in another club, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Yola Quartey). As the night
goes on, he runs into Little Richard (Alton Mason) energizing the crowd in yet another bar.
A Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), promoter for country and western music, happens
to hear Elvis singing “That’s All Right” on the radio thinking he’s Black on what is known in the 1950s as race records. When Parker finds out that Elvis is a white kid from Tupelo he immediately wants to be his promoter. Parker sees how the young Elvis can sing and gyrate causing the crowds to go into a frenzy, especially the females in the crowds. Parker and Presley now act as promoter and singer/guitar artist. A team that over time will become salty. Meanwhile, Elvis is soaring on the charts with songs such as “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Hound Dog”, “If I Can Dream”, and many, many more will come down the pipe.
While some see Elvis as an idol, others see him as corrupting good morals by his gyrations and his lyrics. White segregationists, such as Senator Eastland (Nicholas Bell) deemed him a deviant who plays too much like ” a niggra”. In the first few years, television stations refused to show Elvis below the waist.
Parker encourages Elvis to join the Army just to get him away for a while from the controversies surrounding his acts on stage. When he comes back from the Army he decides to make Hollywood movies, e.g. Girls! Girls! Girls!, Viva Las Vegas, which did very well at the box office for the most part. Elvis marries Priscilla Beaulieu on May 1,1967, but he first meets her in Germany in 1959 when she’s only 14 and he’s 24. Luhrmann stays away from this fact in the film.
Though there are many electrifying scenes with Elvis on stage, the story is, it seems, more
about the relationship between Tom Parker and Elvis Presley. The former is unscrupulous, but to what degree? He appears to have his client’s best interests at heart; other times not.
Elvis’ life in his last years is bad. He starts to take pills daily and his behavior becomes erratic, chaotic, even violent. Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge) has left him. They have one daughter, Lisa Marie (Riley Keough). By the fewer offers to perform, he must have felt The Beatles, The Who, James Brown, The Temptations, Three Dog Night have surpassed him.
On August 16,1977: Elvis has left the building!
Cast: Austin Butler (Elvis Presley), Tom Hanks (Tom Parker), Olivia DeJonge (Priscilla Presley), Dacre Montgomery (Steve Binder), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Jimmy Rodgers), Luke Bracey
(Jerry Schilling), Natasha Bassett (Dixie Locke), Alton Mason (Little Richard), Yola Quartey
(Sister Rosetta Tharpe), David Wenham (Hank Snow), Richard Roxburgh (Vernon Presley), Helen Thomson (Gladys Presley), Gary Clark Jr. (Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup), Nicholas Bell ( Nicholas Bell (Senator Eastland), Kelvin Harrison Jr. (B.B. King), Anthony LaPaglia (Bernard Lansky), Christopher Sommers (Horace Logan), Josh McConville (Sam Phillips).
Director: Baz Luhrmann.
Screenwriters: Baz Luhrmamm and Sam Bromell.
Running time: 159 minutes. (PG-13)
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