ELIVSI’m sitting here at my computer. Microsoft Word is open. The cursor blinking at me, taunting me to write something about ELVIS. If you’re read any of my reviews you know I try to find a way into the conversation about a movie without just coming right out and saying “great”, “meh” or “horrible”. Today I am struggling. What to say about ELVIS. I admit it’s tough to find a way in. Something that connects me to the Baz Luhrman’s biopic about the man, the myth, the legend… Elvis Presley. I think I’ve determined there is nothing. Nothing that connects my lived experience to the bombastic, Oscar nominated ELIVS.

There is a lot to not like about this movie. I am decidedly not a fan of Luhrman’s style. Mainly because it seems to value glitz over substance. How flashy can he make a movie and is that flash hiding flaws? Please, just tell me the story. The jumping around, the spectacle… are they really necessary to make Elvis more appealing to the viewer. I mean the guy sold out shows in Las Vegas for years. He was a showman. He did all that without Baz Luhrman’s help so maybe just tell Elvis’ story and let Elvis be Elvis.

That’s just the start. I’m sure you’ve read about Tom Hanks performance as Col. Tom Parker, the man behind the legend. I kind of get what Hanks is going for here, but it doesn’t work. Maybe it’s the sweaty fat suite or the bizarre Dutch-Southern U.S. accent. I dunno, maybe that’s the way Parker talked but man is it weird. It’s distracting and that is never a good choice for an actor.

Then there is the offensive explanation from a fictional B.B. King about how it’s ok for Elvis to steal the work of black performers. I don’t know if anyone really knows the content of those conversations but somehow, I don’t think it went that way. We can’t ask King or the King. Maybe Priscilla Presley (who approved the movie) knows something we don’t. But in 2022 it is quite tone deaf. Especially after years of knowing how black artists work was stolen and they got no credit or money for it. I’m not asking to re-write history, but this just seems beyond belief.

Ok now let’s talk about the “unreliable narrator”. In this movie Parker is that narrator. It’s almost told from his perspective. A lot of people blame Parker for abusing Elvis and getting him addicted to the drugs that eventually killed him by pushing past the limit of what a human being can do. If that’s not an unreliable narrator, I don’t know what is. It just made me angry at the whole endeavor.

So, is there nothing to like about this movie? Sure, there is. If you are a fan of Elvis’ music, then you’ll hear a lot of it. But the best part of the movie is Austin Butler. He got a Best Actor nomination for his performance, and it is truly amazing. He becomes Elvis. The voice, the moves, the songs… it’s all there and perfectly done. It’s not an impersonation, it’s an interpretation and a damn good one. But I had to shove aside Luhrman’s bombast to really appreciate what Butler is doing. He’s magnetic, a true movie star. If he wins the Oscar, well I can’t say it’s not deserved. I’m rooting for Colin Farrell, but I will understand if Butler takes home the trophy.

As good as Butler is, I just can’t past the multitude of the things I truly disliked about this movie. It’s long and suffers from biopic-itis… that thing where large periods of time are raced through to get to something else the director finds more compelling. We spend a lot of time at the recording of Elvis’ comeback Christmas special. Like maybe a quarter of the movie? It also messes with history in the service of the story. The special was recorded in mid to late June 1968. But in the movie, we see the crew watching coverage of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination which happened on June 5, 1968. I don’t mind fudging things, but that’s just lying. And it bugs the hell out of me.

There were so many more 2022 movies that were better than ELVIS. DECISION TO LEAVE comes to mind. Heck, CONFESS, FLETCH was more effective. I suppose the Academy likes Luhrman’s style of bombast. I just find it exhausting and overwhelming. And who wants those feelings when you either sit in a theater or in front of your TV for 2 hours and 40 minutes. Not me thank you.

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