The film begins by introducing an older man named Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), who we learn was once Elvis Presley’s agent and personal manager. Colonel Parker serves as our narrator, taking us back to where it all began, starting with Elvis’s childhood. We see his upbringing and family life in great depth, as well as a young Elvis having various life-changing experiences that helped him rise to fame and popularity. When Colonel Parker consistently hears a new talent being played on the radio, he seeks the singer out and investigates further. He witnesses a young Elvis (played by Austin Butler) performing on stage in front of a large crowd and is instantly impressed. Colonel Parker decides to pursue him, eventually making various promises relating to Elvis’s future career as a singer and actor.
Directed by Baz Luhrmann, best known for smash hits such as Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge and Strictly Ballroom, this is a fast-paced, snappy film that even feels a little wild. It’s also a film that feels highly creative and imaginative. Viewers are rarely given a chance to catch their breath, being thrown right into Elvis’s life from the very opening. The story goes back and forth through time, which may seem a little too much at first, but once viewers adjust to the Director’s vision, style and rhythm, there’s a spectacular journey to witness and experience.
Elvis is best described as a heavy drama. We are provided with a deep dark dive into various moments of Elvis’s life, including the major highlights of his career and an honest look at the many challenges he suffered. If you’re expecting to see everything about Elvis’s life, you may be slightly disappointed as the story is told from the perspective of Colonel Parker. Some moments from Elvis’s life are not presented on the screen, but I do feel many of the key highlights and topics are shown. For many movie lovers, there’s a strong chance that you’ll walk away from this film discovering something you didn’t know about the life of Elvis (I know I did upon my first viewing).
Performances here can’t be faulted. Austin Butler’s portrayal of the rock ‘n roll icon Elvis is flawless, and my expectations were exceeded. Everything from his speech and singing to his facial expressions and general movements amazed and impressed me. Tom Hanks was powerful here, too, as Colonel Tom Parker. To my surprise, Tom Hanks was given a fair amount of screen time, which was unexpected, but his role is critical not only as the narrator but in helping us understand Elvis’s journey and torment. This character was quite different for Tom Hanks to tackle, requiring him to wear a fat suit and portray a highly selfish character. Naturally, Tom Hanks pulls this character off wonderfully, as expected. The interactions between Austin Butler and Tom Hanks felt real, and I enjoyed watching unsettling and dramatic moments unfold.
Of course, being a film about Elvis means it is packed with stunning music tracks and familiar numbers. This is a strength of the film, highlighting various Elvis concerts and the origin of some of his songs. It’s easy to feel entertained by the music alone, and the sound quality of these moments doesn’t disappoint. The costume design is equally impressive, not just for Elvis, but in managing to recreate various points in time. The costuming always felt accurate and convincing in portraying different time periods and characters.
As for any negatives, my points are quite minor. While the film focuses on the passionate relationship between Elvis and Priscilla (played by Olivia DeJonge), certain aspects of this relationship feel vague or ignored, including how the two first met. This could be because the story is told from another person’s perspective, or perhaps the Director didn’t feel like focusing on this aspect as much as I had hoped (it’s not shown but narrated). Another minor disappointment is the character Vernon, Elvis’s father (Richard Roxburgh), who sadly felt out of place and unfitting right from his introduction.
Overall, this film won’t fail to entertain if you are a fan of Elvis or the highly creative director Baz Luhrmann. It’s fast-paced, snappy, and filled with heavy and dramatic moments which are touching and, at times, downright powerful to witness. Audiences are taken on a wild journey, and highlights of Elvis’s life are downright applaud-worthy thanks to various musical numbers and costume designs. Austin Butler delivers a flawless performance as Elvis, impressively portraying his speech, mannerisms, and vocals. Tom Hanks is quite surprising as the narrator and gives something memorable and unique here. I had an absolute blast with this film and was highly impacted at various moments while watching. I guess you could say that as the credits rolled, I was honestly “all shook up”.