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Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ is a frustratingly enjoyable mess

Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ is a frustratingly enjoyable mess

Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ is a frustratingly enjoyable mess
July 01
14:00 2022

Musician biopics have been a hot new trend in the entertainment world, with Elvis being the latest to get his story told to audiences everywhere. Whether the entire story is shared or not, “Elvis” certainly has a lot to say. 

Director Baz Luhrmann’s style is plastered all over the film, sometimes as a distraction instead of a benefit. If nothing else, Austin Butler is a star. Any awards heading his way for this role are well warranted. He saves the movie in times of need.

The film is filled from beginning to end with head-scratching moments, but if “Elvis” prevents you from doing one thing, it’s feeling bored.

From early in his life, to his last performance before death, “Elvis” shows us the impact the artist had on the music world.

Every highlight is shown in its glory. Every moment of struggle is shown in graphic detail. The man Elvis trusts the most, Colonel Tom Parker, tends to be the first domino to fall when struggles become present. Too much of a good thing proves to be bad, as his performances in Las Vegas begin to take permanent tolls on his health.

The selling point of this film was Butler’s performance as Elvis, and it delivers in every way possible. You could tell every movement was calculated. The mannerisms were nailed to perfection. Butler’s performance in this film is going to be regarded as one of the best in a biopic.

Tom Hanks plays the best comic book villain of 2022. He plays Tom Parker with camp and borderline terror. Every line delivery was followed by muffled laughter throughout the theater. 

The chemistry between all of the actors is nowhere to be found, but all you need is Butler with the weight of the movie on his back.

The editing is all over the place. It takes chances and there will always be respect for big swings, even if there is a miss here and there. This could have been a very cut-and-dry biopic, but stylistic choices always kept things exciting and fresh. The iconic performances throughout Elvis’ career were brought to life, both with accuracy and flare.

Even with minimal interest in Elvis and his career, there were moments overflowing with charisma. However, the movie has no right being nearly three hours. The slower moments in the movie added nothing. It is difficult to stay upset because for every boring or poorly executed moment, something electric was waiting around the corner. 

It was nice to see the movie talk about how Elvis’ entire career would have been nothing without inspiration from Black musicians. Artists like Little Richard and Big Mama Thorton play influential roles in the film. The movie steers away from the more controversial moments in Elvis’s life. Elvis met his wife Priscilla when she was only 14, a detail the movie speeds over like ripping off a band-aid.

Shannon Carlin of Time wrote an amazing article diving deeper into the couple’s complicated relationship, and anyone interested should check it out.

According to Luhrmann, a longer cut of the film exists. It is supposed to dive deeper into the personal life of Elvis. What audiences were given seemed like an intentional evasive maneuver. If you are going to cover the entire life of one of the most famous artists ever, you can’t pick and choose which bad aspects of his life you want to cover. It comes with taking on the project in the first place. 

There are times when this film feels like an excuse for Luhrmann to make as many stylistic choices as possible. It feels like the Luhrmann experience, with Elvis’ story being the bag of chips that comes with your sandwich. There are equal moments of excellence and frustration. It’s an overstuffed mess but it is an entertaining one.

If anyone else were cast in the role, this could have been a disaster. Butler turns this fever dream into one of the most distinctive experiences of the year. It’s worth it for the spectacle alone, but there’s a little more conversation than action in this long-winded epic.

Jaden’s Rating: 3/5

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Jaden Oberkrom

Jaden Oberkrom

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