all the rock music you have ever listened to comes from him
The film explores the life and music of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler), seen through the prism of his complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). The story delves into the complex dynamic between Presley and Parker spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America. Central to that journey is one of the most significant and influential people in Elvis’s life, Priscilla Presley (Olivia DeJonge). (Rotten Tomatoes)
I am always suspicious about bio pictures: alas, they are often cheap, focusing only on a fictionalized version of the character’s dramatic life events, his/her rise and fall. The more so for music bio pictures: take for example I Walk the Line, dedicated to Elvis‘ early days’ companion at Sun Records Johnny Cash. On the contrary, the remake of the music in these biopics is often very good and gives back the feeling of the artist‘s individual touch.
Elvis follows this line but it is, luckily, better: first of all the soundtrack, which is 90% of the whole lot. Austin Butler’s version of Elvis classics is astonishing, hard to say if it’s the king of rock and roll or his counterpart who sings. Besides, Elvis is visually very rich and accurate in setting but only apparently innovative in storytelling. It is in fact narrated following his famed agent Colonel Parker’s point of view and voice-over – what a great Tom Hank performance – but it is actually chronologically developed. We see Elvis in his early years at Sun Records, then in his despicable Hollywood years, in his everlasting 68 Comeback on TV and during his final years as a Las Vegas resident performing guest. The love/hate relationship with the fake colonel, responsible for both Presley’s success and failure, is the main feature of the plot. Some parts of the biography are clearly false, most of all the 68 TV show, which shows Elvis concerned about the death of M.L. King. It is an attempt to give the character a social consciousness he did not have, notwithstanding his relationships with black musicians from whom he learned the tools of the trade. It is true that in the beginning ‘The Pelvis’ did shock the puritan American middle classes with his sexuality, his movements on the stage, his link with the music of the devil – always black of course. But let us not forget that a few years later the same middle classes would appreciate his most romantic melodic songs which, in my opinion, are the weakest part of the immense Elvis repertoire.
I appreciated the fact that the film focuses on the various musical influences, mostly black, that Elvis was able to absorb, master and merge in order to invent rock and roll: blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, country. Not originally, most of his famous rock and roll hits of his are in the movies, from It’s Alright Ma, Blue Suede Shoes, Heartbreak Hotel to Suspicious Minds and Burning Love, to name a few. There is little room for the melodic songs, as if Luzmann was telling us that ‘the pelvis’ is the real Elvis, and I agree.
If you love, like, don’t mind or just don’t know enough about Elvis Presley do go see the movie: all the rock music you have ever listened to comes from him, a legacy no one can miss.