Review by Camden Ferrell
It has been nearly a decade since Baz Luhrmann’s last feature film, The Great Gatsby, came out. For his newest movie, he has decided to make a movie about one of the biggest names in music history. Elvis is a biopic about the King of Rock and his rise to fame and prominence. The erratic pacing and Luhrmann’s signature style may polarize some viewers, and it suffers slightly from its bloated length, but it’s a mostly enjoyable movie with a great leading performance from Austin Butler.
Elvis is still one of the most famous pop culture icons decades after his death, and there’s a lot about his story that audiences might not know. In this movie, we see Elvis’ beginnings as a young boy and as an adult when his career begins to skyrocket. The movie is told from the perspective of his manager Colonel Tom Parker while he’s at the end of his life. This set up is fairly standard for a musical biopic, and its execution is where it really manages to set itself apart from other similar films.
The writing of this movie is decent but nothing remarkable. Nothing in its script is particularly bad, but it can feel too safe and boilerplate to really stand out in this department. It could have also been a little more comprehensive of his life as it seemed to focus heavily on certain periods and gloss over large sections of his life and career.
The thing that people will talk about most with this film is its performances. Specifically, people will talk about the leading performance from Austin Butler. In his first major starring role, he is quite great as Elvis. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing or Oscar-worthy, but he embodies the role very well, and I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more from him in the future. Tom Hanks plays Colonel Tom Parker, and his role is surprisingly forgettable for him, and it never really impresses.
Luhrmann’s style is definitely all over this film, and this may be good or bad news depending on who you are. The direction is what makes this film unique, and its flashiness works more than it doesn’t. As a result, the pacing is incredibly inconsistent which unexpectedly makes for a very entertaining first half. However, this problem starts working against the movie in the final half which drags significantly.
At nearly three hours, Elvis could have definitely been shorter while still retaining the charm and eccentric style of Luhrmann. It may not be as comprehensive as one would expect, but Butler is fun to watch, and it definitely sets itself apart stylistically in order to compensate for a somewhat mediocre script.
Elvis is in theaters June 24.