Out of the limited selection of big-budget movies coming out in the next few weeks, Elvis is undoubtedly the one that most cinephiles want to see. Its trailer and Cannes premiere made it seem incredibly promising. But is it that good? The reviews are in.
One of the movies that made the most noise at Cannes is Elvis. Baz Luhrmann’s biopic reportedly received a 12-minute standing ovation after its Premiere.
This is not so surprising considering that the man behind “Romeo + Juliet” directed it! Now that the early excitement has dissipated, it’s time to take a colder look at this film.
An incredible performance by Austin Butler and a disappointing Tom Hanks:
Critiques had mixed feelings about the cast. In her review, Stephanie Zacharek from Time Magazine mentions that:
The King himself is played by Austin Butler, and boy does he deliver: from the swagger to the voice, he embodies Elvis and swiftly makes you forget you’re watching the kid from The Carrie Diaries.
She goes on to say that, “It’s a star-making turn. Unfortunately, Hanks fares less well as his manager. Wearing prosthetics and putting on a distracting foreign accent (Parker was actually Dutch), Hanks feels too much like a caricature, waddling into the picture like an uninvited guest at a snazzy party”.
A Love Letter to the King:
One element of this film that most critics agree on is Luhrmann’s unconditional love for Elvis. Almost too much.
“At times it’s barely a movie—the first hour or so is exceptionally fragmented and frenetic, as if Luhrmann were time-traveling through a holographic rendering of Elvis Presley’s life, dipping and darting through the significant events with little time to touch down.”
But through all the arty overindulgences, one truth shines through: Luhrmann loves Elvis so much it hurts. And in a world where there’s always, supposedly, a constant stream of new things to love, or at least to binge-watch, love of Elvis—our American pauper king with a cloth-of-gold voice—feels like a truly pure thing.
On that subject of the love for the King, Caspar Salmon from The Daily Beast adds: “…the film is so extraordinarily long and spends what feels like decades on elements of Presley’s life that are considerably less interesting (such as the Vegas residency), that the film feels cobbled together, a ragbag.”
Peter Bradshaw from the Guardian calls Elvis squeaky-clean and says that: “Luhrmann has given us another pointless explosion of super-spangly sparkles in celluloid form – exactly the same sparkles he sprinkled over the Moulin Rouge and Jay Gatsby in previous films. And just as Alan Partridge said his favourite Beatles album was The Best of the Beatles, so Luhrmann has given us a film built around what he imagines is the best of Elvis Presley.”
On the movie as a whole, Bradshaw adds: “It’s not a movie so much as 159-minute trailer for a film called Elvis – a relentless, frantically flashy montage, epic and yet negligible at the same time, with no variation of pace. At the end of it all, you might find yourself pondering the eternal questions: what does Luhrmann think of Elvis’s music? Does he, for example, prefer some Elvis songs to others? Has he listened to any of Elvis’s songs all the way through? Or does he shut down Spotify after 20 seconds once he reckons he’s got the gist?”
Is it worth watching?
It is not all bad, though. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film shows a score of 81% based on 36 reviews. We will have to wait for June 23rd to judge for ourselves. But a movie about such an icon and his music has to be at the very least, enjoyable.
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