More is always more with Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, Hollywood’s specialist in operational bombast (Romeo + Juliet† Moulin Rouge!† And then the camera also generously zooms in on young Elvis Presley’s purple satin-wrapped crotch, while his jerky hips trigger an unexpected sensation in the women in the audience.
As if in a trance, they jump up: trembling and open eyes, as if their sexual liberation starts right there: at the first notes of Baby Let’s Play House† Started by the handsome kid with quiff, patent leather shoes and eye shadow, who right now appeared a bit nervous on stage, unaware of his effect on the upcoming Elvis fans.
Whether it was exactly like that during the singer’s baptism of fire at the Hayride music night in 1954, when the country audience was introduced to orgasmic rock that night – I’m not sure. Rarely (if ever) has an imitation of Elvis looked as electric and contagious as the actress Austin Butler in Elvis†
With his 159-minute film biography, Luhrmann does not seem to want to shatter the myth of Elvis – on the contrary, that myth should be expanded. And served in bubbly stylized, video clip-like scenes. Elvis as a child in Mississippi, looked through a crack in a liquor store where blues singer and guitarist Big Boy Crudup has just finished a delicious dirty version of It’s okay mom player. And how the camera immediately shoots for the gospel worship service in a field tent, after which both black music styles first enter into a musical duel, to merge into Elvis’ head. The Holy Spirit has entered into him, the pastor points out. Insightful, exciting and fun.
The bouncy, lavish narrative form, where there is hardly room for a full-fledged dramatic scene, makes Elvis sometimes exhausting. Although Luhrmann adds structure, in the form of the narrator: Elvis’ shadowy manager Colonel Tom Parker, aka Andreas’ Dries’ van Kuijk, who grew up in Breda and moved to America. ‘Without me, there would be no Elvis,’ he tells the viewer. “And yet there are people who think I’m the villain.” The Colonel, who put everything in front of Elvis, tied the artist to an endless series of hotel concerts in Las Vegas, possibly to fund his own gambling addiction. And up until his tragic toilet death in 1977, he kept his source of income going with injections from a private doctor.
As a Disney-like villain, this is how Tom Hanks plays him. The actor’s facial expression is hampered by a chin and nose prosthesis, the silly accent is strongly accentuated, never even close to the colonel’s wooden-Dutch-English.
Elvis let his manager control his life completely. But what exactly happened between the two is still unclear here. Elvis’ character is too fleeting for that. And Hanks’ Colonel too cartoonish. The film draws heavily on Elvis’ beautifully imagined comeback performance to tell the entire Elvis saga. But towards the end, the curtain closes: The viewer is spared the truly humiliating, bloated, devouring Elvis. It is to be felt that Luhrmann is taking the Presley heirs into consideration; Even when the unfaithful and pill-swallowing Elvis walks through a relational valley, he still expresses his great love for his wife Priscilla.
Elvis’ debt to black music is emphatically through Elvis intertwined: Besides Crudup, Sister Rosetta, BB King, Little Richard and Big Mama Thornton come by. That they did not get the same opportunities in segregated America, Luhrmann also emphasizes through the Colonel, who immediately sees Elvis ‘potential marketing success when he hears the singer on the radio:’Is he white ?!†
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Kelvin Harrison Jr.
159 min. I 172 sale.