I liked Australian Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby) and more than I expected. Luhrmann’s grandiose visual style almost on the verge of kitsch in this case has completely unexpectedly fully functioned, and the biography of the greatest music star of all time has turned almost into a modern Greek tragedy. We see here Elvis Presley as a tragic character, a young man who had the world in his hands and for whom at one point there seemed to be no limit. But as a counterweight to Elvis, Luhrmann cast Colonel Tom Parker, a circus con man or “Snowman” as he calls himself, a manager who is also the narrator of the whole story, as an equally important character.
For the role of Elvis Luhrmann dug up a completely unknown American actor Austin Butler who was perfectly hit and if Rami Malek won an Oscar for imitating Freddie Mercury in the disappointing “Bohemian Rhapsody”, then this young man should get five golden tassels for acting and interpreting Presley. On the other hand, the difficult-to-recognize Tom Hanks was chosen for the role of the slimy colonel behind the mask and make-up. Although Parker right at the outset claims it’s a lie that he’s to blame for Elvis ’death and introduces us from the start to the story of a young man who completely changed the music scene in the mid-fifties.
At Elvis, I especially liked the fact that it’s not one of those creepy irritating wikipedias – a biography that makes my body hair itch and my stomach cramp. If I despise anything, these are biographies in which they try to factually cram data, some trivia from an online encyclopedia, actors disguise themselves as if they are performing in that moron on one of our commercial televisions where various morons disguise themselves as some famous stars and sing, and children mentally undercapacitated adults watch it and something like that is funny to them. Luhrmann’s “Elvis” is a grandiose and lavish vision of the life of the greatest rock star of all time in which an experienced Australian, to my happiness and satisfaction, has bypassed all the formulas that usually go along with such films.
Luhrmann decided to go his own way and hit it off, at least when it comes to me although I’m sure many will disagree with my opinion. Despite the fact that the film lasts more than two and a half hours, “Elvis” does not seem at all stretched and the film is of great tempo, energy and visuals, and Luhrmann has once again shown that he manages perfectly in such sumptuous productions. It turned out to be a great choice for me not to waste time pushing inside chronologically all the details from Elvis’ life, so the period from his return from the army in the late fifties to the end of the sixties he almost skips or rather shortens in a minute or two.
Although we start from the end or after Elvis’ death when the grotesque colonel justifies that he is not to blame for the singer’s death, but that he is at least equally deserving of his fame, the story is then followed chronologically. And from a perspective – a colonel, a type of grotesque appearance, reduced almost to the level of a caricature or a villain from a movie about superheroes from the seventies or eighties. There is also a great visual counterbalance between the young, beautiful, seductive and charming Elvis whose “squirming” (as his famous dance was translated into us) led girls, girls and women to ecstasy and physically and morally repulsive caricatures such as Colonel Parker.
Right at the beginning I stated that Elvis is portrayed here as a tragic character, almost like an ancient hero who had the whole world under his feet, but his audacity, self-confidence and youth seemed to bother the gods of Olympus so they decided to punish him. In Butler’s brilliant rendition (who sings Elvis songs in his youth alone, while the real King’s vocals were used at a later stage) we realize all the tragedy of Elvis ’character. A young man who, primarily with his naivety, part and insecurity, and then with the manipulations and corruption of those around him, initially with American society that was not yet ready for this kind of revolution in the mid-1950s, later ended the way he ended and became a victim of his own glory.
I don’t think there is a person in whom the “American Dream” is better personified than Elvis Presley, a poor kid who grew up in the poorest parts of Memphis and fed on black music, a forbidden fruit at the time for whites who considered such music dirty and unworthy. Butler brilliantly presented all the paradoxes of Elvis’ character and we understand, just as it is unfortunately too late for him, when he no longer had the strength, what his curse of success, sudden fame, wealth and adoration looked like with a catastrophic choice of people around him, led to ruin. Even before his death, this last phase of Elvis’ life is a real tragedy because it is clear to him that he is a prisoner of the golden cage he created and from which there is no way out. For me, “Elvis” is a great movie and the perfect choice to watch on the big screen of a movie theater.