Baz Luhrmann delivers a cinematically dazzling, if inaccurate, portrayal of the King of Rock and Roll.

As you might have guessed by the title, Elvis is a dramatized musical biopic about the “King of Rock and Roll” himself, Elvis Presley. Directed by Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge!), who also co-writes with Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner, it tells the story of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) from his childhood to his death with a strong focus on his complicated relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks).

Told with the musical flair you’d expect from Luhrmann, Elvis is an engaging and interesting story that’s only tarnished when you learn after seeing the film that a number of the key and pivotal plot points never happened in real life. In many ways, this feels like 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody all over again.

Elvis Presley was already making a mark for himself on the radio as a white singer performing with an African American sound when Colonel Tom Parker goes to a show and witnesses the young singer’s iconic and provocative dance moves that set the women in the crowd into a frenzy. He knows he’s discovered something unique and makes a deal with Elvis to become the hearthrob’s manager. It’s not long before his singing talent and controversial moves garner him the nickname by the media “Elvis the Pelvis”, turning him into a superstar and provide the once poor Presley family with riches beyond their wildest dreams.

But like many successful entertainers who find themselves in the unique position of being famous, rich, superstars, the cliched problems of alcohol, drug use, infidelity, and shady management all start to take their toll on Elvis’ career and wellbeing. With Colonel Tom Parker steering Presley’s career in a direction more beneficial to Parker than his client, the career that should have been an opportunity to see the world as Elvis had wanted, eventually becomes a toxic prison with no way out.

Unfortunately, some artistic license has been taken with the telling of Elvis’ story so viewers should not take this film as an accurate portrayal of the facts. I won’t spoil the film for those who aren’t readily familiar with the rise and fall of Presley, though a quick Google search reveals a number of the pivotal – and seemingly important – plot points in the film did not actually happen and were either added or altered by the filmmakers.

This is a real pity because there are some great and shocking moments in the film that really portray society and Elvis in a certain light. But then when you find out it’s not true, well you realize you didn’t really watch anything of real historic substance or learn about the true Elvis. It’s just fiction.

Despite my disappointment upon learning of the film’s inaccuracies, what is far from disappointing is Austin Butler’s Oscar-worthy performance. He is simply amazing. Butler has done some serious homework for this role and has absolutely perfected the King of Rock and Roll’s dance gyrations, mannerisms and speech. It’s incredible to watch. Coupled with a picture-perfect wardrobe and it’s like watching Elvis be reborn. I’d be shocked if he didn’t win any awards for this role.

Tom Hanks also gives a great performance as Colonel Tom Parker. Unrecognizable under all the prosthetics, Hanks masterfully portrays the sly, self-serving, carni businessman whose only drive is to make money – at any cost. Despite the nefarious agenda of his character, he’s also a father figure to the King and Hanks is able to wear both hats with ease.

Baz Luhrmann has delivered a story about Elvis Presley in the flamboyant, eye-catching style that he’s known for. With exceptional editing, fantastic costumes, and a brilliant performance from Butler this is an easy film to be swept up and engrossed with the spectacle on screen – especially with all the music and dancing.

Also letting this film down strangely enough are some of the music choices, which you wouldn’t think would be an issue given this is Elvis we’re talking about. There are a few instances where modern, urban style music has been chosen by the filmmaker and the tonal shift is very noticeable and detrimental to the viewing experience. One second you feel like you’re in another time period and suddenly you’re right back in 2022. It does not gel.

Additionally, there’s a big part of Presley’s life that is totally glossed over – his time in the military. We know he gets drafted and meets Priscilla while in Germany. But beyond that, nothing else is covered. It would have been interesting to learn how he coped from being a megastar singer to being a regular soldier serving in the US Army.

I’d be lying if I said, as artist entertainment goes, Elvis wasn’t a great film. Apart from some odd soundtrack choices and some missed moments of Elvis Presley’s life, Baz Luhrmann has crafted a cinematic spectacle I thoroughly enjoyed watching at the cinema and Austin Butler delivers a phenomenal performance as the King of Rock and Roll. That said, I did feel a little cheated learning that so much of the story presented here was embellished or simply created for the film. You wouldn’t think the real Elvis would need any embellishment.

  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Release Date: June 24, 2022
  • Distributor: Warner Bros.

Originally published on July 03, 2022 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/elvis-2022/