At The Movies: Austin Butler is electrifying as Elvis Presley

1 week ago 33

Elvis (PG13)

159 minutes, opens June 23

4 stars

The story: This sprawling biography of singer-actor Elvis Presley adds an extra dimension by taking in the point of view of his manager, the shrewd but mysterious Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). It traces the arc of Presley's life, from his impoverished childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi, to his later years as a global phenomenon, ensconced in his Graceland mansion. Beside him at every step is Parker, a man who takes Presley (American actor Austin Butler) to the top, but whose help comes at a price.

Two reasons you should watch this biopic, when there are already a dozen dramatisations and documentaries about Elvis:

1. It's bold, it's big, it's Baz Luhrmann

This movie assumes you do not care or know very much about the man who ruled pop music before the coming of The Beatles and the British Invasion, and who made a comeback when the counterculture was in full swing.

Australian film-maker Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, 2001) treats Presley's life story as a superhero myth, a journey to be savoured on its own.

In typical Luhrmann fashion, there is no subtlety. It is all surface, but even his worst surfaces are imaginative and thoughtful. While the biopic covers some of the singer's low points, it does not dwell on the dirt, and instead prefers to celebrate the successes.

Butler's Presley is electrifying. The scene in which the young and unknown Presley converts the bored and blase audience into a mob of screaming true believers is sold as a moment of triumph, and the thrill is palpable.

2. Even its flaws are interesting

At over 2½ hours, it is far too long. The ambitious final act, covering Presley's latter years and Parker's financial shenanigans and cosmic comeuppance could do with a trim. The late attempt at shoehorning a heavily dramatic, horror-tinged tale about a Faustian bargain into what had up till then been a breathless hero's journey feels jarring, but it is a heartfelt attempt.

When you have a giant like Hanks in your picture, you have to use him. But usi...

Read Entire Article