An emotionally powerful film that has to be seen. Just be prepared for Tom Hank’s portrayal of the horrific Col. Tom Parker.
Let’s start by saying that Austin Butler’s role as Elvis is just as magnificent as Rami Malek’s Oscar winning performance as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). He deserves a nomination this year.
The film follows Elvis as child to his death in 1977 at the age of 42. Raised in the South by a caring mother (Helen Thompson) with his father (Richard Roxburgh) in prison, he was inspired after attending an African American tent revival. His attraction to the physical nature of music began there.
As seen in the film’s trailer, nobody, and I mean nobody, moved their hips, legs and arms like Elvis when he sang on stage. Women in the crowd went crazy as Elvis produced an emotional climax never seen before.
As Elvis soared to fame in the 1950s, controversy followed. His association with Black singers like Little Richard (Alton Mason) produced a segregation uproar in the South. On top of that, his physical gyrations on stage required him to stand completely still while singing on Steve Allen’s popular TV show.
Yet the memory of how Elvis cut loose while singing on TV’s Ed Sullivan show resulted in police enforcing a pedestrian singing code. This resulted in Elvis enlisting in the Army, where he returned to Vegas two years later to rebuild his career.
In the process, Butler is absolutely sensational while performing at Vegas’ International Hotel. And while he released several very good movies, years of being confined to Vegas gradually ruined both Elvis’ reputation and his marriage to Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge), his loving and devoted wife.
But what I intentionally left out was Director Baz Luhrmann’s focus on Tom Hanks’ role of Elvis’ manager Col. Tom Parker. Tragically, Hanks is memorable playing one of the most despicable characters in the history of film.
Appearing in almost as many scenes as Butler, you hate him at every turn. You are left feeling that your joy in watching a historic cinematic heaven is diluted by moments resembling a cinematic hell.
Yet Mr. Luhrmann could not ignore reality, and in the process the film captured a legacy having meaning to this very day. Wait until you watch Butler’s performance as Elvis on stage in a filmed TV show in 1968 that helped him recapture his reputation.
Let me close by saying that I am proud that I watched Elvis’ last performance on stage here in Indianapolis at Market Square Arena. Sure, he was a bit chubby, but his vocals remained strong and powerful.
Elvis’ home, Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, is now a museum run by Priscilla. She may have divorced him but keeps his memory alive.