The Reel Review
Relative unknown Austin Butler stars in director Baz Luhrmann’s dazzling biopic about the late entertainer, as told from the perspective of Presley’s controversial late promoter, “Colonel” Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks.
The film is classic Luhrmann – a unique, visually bombastic, imagery-filled homage to the world’s most successful solo recording artist that focuses less on the facts of his life and more on dazzling visuals and stirring emotions – be it Elvis’ frenetic, religious experience-type stage performances that sent teenage girls into rapturous ecstasy, and later, his drug-addled despair of being trapped in a horrible, controlling business relationship with the manipulative Parker.
Other standouts – Olivia DeJonge (The Visit) as his wife Priscilla, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Cyrano, The Photograph) as BB King, Alton Mason as Little Richard and Shonka Dukureh as Big Mama Thornton, who first recorded the hit song “Hound Dog.”
Butler is so astoundingly good – so electrifying as Elvis – that Hanks’ odd, fat suit performance of Parker is distractingly cartoonish by comparison. Cutting 40 minutes of Hanks and his grating narrative would have given much needed relief to the bloated two-and-a-half-hour runtime. Despite that, Luhrmann’s immersive vision still wildly succeeds in humanizing Presley – capturing the entertainer’s life as well as its frustrating, sad ending.
• Disney Channel alum Austin Butler beat out Ansel Elgort, Harry Styles, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Miles Teller for the role. In 2023, Butler will appear in Denis Villenueve’s Dune: Part Two as Feyd-Rautha, the role played by Sting in the 1984 sci-fi film.
• Filmed in Australia, production was halted when Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson tested positive for COVID-19 during the first weeks of the global pandemic in early 2020.
• After Presley’s death in 1977 it was discovered that Tom Parker, the illegal Dutch immigrant to the U.S. and former carnival worker, had horribly mismanaged Presley’s finances and taken advantage of him financially, although Priscilla Presley remained friends with Parker until his death in 1997 at age 87 from a stroke.
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