Director: Baz Luhrmann
Story By: Baz Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce, & Jeremy Doner
Cast: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Kevin Harrison Jr, Olivia DeJonge, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, & Kodi Smit-McPhee
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The last 2/3rds of the film’s entertainment focus saves it immensely.
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Theme & Story: C
Overall “Paper” Score: C
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General Public: Interesting Enough
Film Enthusiasts: Don’t Rush
Experience Seekers (via Visuals & Score): Don’t Rush
Musical Biopic / Drama Fans: Worth the $$$
Overall “Viewing Experience” Score: Interesting Enough / Wait for Streaming
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1. “Told” from the perspective of his manager, we learn about Elvis Presley’s start, life, and final years in entertainment.
This is Elvis.
Thematically, I struggled to see any clear messaging direction. As the film progresses, it seems to focus on the role fame, stability, and success can play in negatively steering the intentions and trajectory of individuals. However, there were some engagement choices that didn’t really support that theme.
Act One for me did a nice job setting the tone with Tom Hanks’ character to signify who was telling the story and why. From there, it gets a little chaotic trying to juggle both Colonel Parker’s existence, the introduction of Elvis, and a typical exposition for Elvis. It moves pretty fast that the theme doesn’t even feel established. I get why there was interest in this “man from Memphis,” but there wasn’t any form of connections for foreshadowing to give off characters possibly being steered in the wrong direction.
Act Two is where I felt the film picked up in terms of cohesive story telling and engagement. It’s also where we get more foreshadowing around Hanks’ character with the theme, though it doesn’t really speak to anyone being steered a particular way, and more about secrets and dependency. In terms of the character Elvis/Austin Butler, well… he seemed more like a playing piece for Hanks’ character/the film with no real thematic purpose except to be the engagement for viewers—so I guess it follows through on the story aspect.
Act Three is another really engaging act, and a nice conclusion to the film overall. It’s also where the theme is the strongest via Hanks’ character. Almost blatant. Now in terms of Elvis’ character, again he came off as an entertainment pawn for me vs having a real purpose and connection to the theme. 🥴
2. The visual start to the film/all of Act One’s visuals were so Baz, and I loved it! 🙌🏾😩
3. Oh wow! So that’s what led to the military? Talk about white preservation on another level…
4. Come through, Kevin Harrison having a role! I love him! 😩😍🙌🏾
5. With a runtime of 149 minutes, Elvis is very entertaining—both via the direction choices and nostalgia and history that comes with watching a biopic. However, Act One does move a little too fast to give any of the characters some really thematic development. There were also moments in Act Two that felt like taking up screen time, even though it was still engaging.
6. That portrayal to actual footage was so smooth! 👍🏾👍🏾
7. Yeeesss for the subtle gay representation! 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾
8. The soundtrack was…👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👍🏾
9. Austin Butler was really great to watch, and he delivered well on the story aspect of simply showcasing the life of Elvis, and being the entertainment. I personally feel his character missed an opportunity to tie in the theme more by spending more time with his relationship on Beale Street and with B.B. King/his influences + the response by the Black community as his success grew and how the response impacted his intentions and trajectory. Something felt as if the writing wanted to tip-toe or water down the drama. Especially the scene with Elvis and Little Richard vs what we know Little Richard has said in regards to his stamp on Rock and Roll.
I actually thought Tom Hanks was going to be clear front runner with my fave character delivery, but he was just “good.” I loved him more in the second half of Act 2 and all of Act 3, but I loved Austin Butler’s performance more throughout. However, he was the strongest in terms of thematic follow through in Act Three. Unfortunately the writing consistency with Hanks’ character for me is what kept Colonel Parker from really embodying the theme from beginning to end—there was a missed opportunity using Act One a little more intentionally if it was meant truly be from the perspective of Colonel Parker.
10. Chile…I expected more from that storm out and drive to Beale Street. 😒
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Overall #Elvis gives Why Do Fools Fall In Love – meets Nightmare Alley – meets the TLC Biopic – meets I, Tonya – meets Toy Story 3
I was drawn to this movie the moment I saw the trailer and Baz Luhrmann’s name. I personally enjoyed the latest Gatsby film by Baz, so I had a certain expectation.
Now, did the film meet the expectation? You know… I am on the fence. I did enjoy the movie, but not for the reasons I thought I would, and not because it does everything well in regards to the story. I enjoyed it because of Austin Butler and the literal entertainment (which I think is an easy save for Baz).
The film did attempt to meet some of the expectations I had in regards to the fun director choices and visual effects, and even Act Three; but I think the film also wanted to be a true biopic which got in the way of a full out Baz experience for me—the Baz choices in Act One are very different from the Baz choices in Acts Two and Three. Furthermore, I found some of the story decisions to be “safe” and almost teetering on an agenda regarding feelings about Elvis between black and white people…very “Kumbaya-ish” without aspects of the story to really back it up (I think that Little Richard moment says a lot about what this story missed).