Review: Baz Lurhmann’s Elvis

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“When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer”

Where do I even begin…

Elvis, at its core, pays tribute to the late great King. Baz Lurhmann personifies the fantasy land that is Las Vegas and makes it what it is, a place you don’t want to miss while simultaneously showing the audience how the city can be as addicting as the games within it.

The stylized editing brings forth a different dimension to the film that we usually see in an Adam McKay or Edgar Wright film. The editing is meant to help tell the story but in this case, the editing tells the story. It adds a different layer that some directors might be afraid to use as a storytelling tool. However, no one is as grandiose as Elvis Presley and his biopic should be no different.

There’s one million Elvis impersonators but no one can emmulate the King as well as Austin Butler did. He was not doing an impression, he was Elvis and it really made this movie. He was born to play EP. I truly believe the pandemic helped him get ready for the role as it started shooting in late 2019 and had to stop for a while but Butler did not and it paid off. His acting, singing and mannerisms were almost identical to the real thing. As someone who has never seen Elvis in real life, I asked many older audience members after the film what they thought of his performance to which all unanimously said “it was like the real thing”. If Austin doesn’t get an Oscar Nomination for this role, Will Smith will smack someone again and I hope it’ll be Tom Hanks… I mean Colonel Parker. After Butler, the acting was decent all around but it’s very obvious that Tom Hanks is passed his prime and that’s ok. He was never great but he did well in this role, despite all the criticism. I don’t see how someone else could have played someone as dispicable any better. Olivia DeJonge, ironically, was great as young Prescilla and old Prescilla, everything in the middle felt like she in the shadows to no fault of her own. Being married to someone like Elvis isn’t easy and I’m glad Prescilla worked as hard as she did to keep his legacy alive even after all the lawsuits. Without Prescilla, there is no Elvis, no Graceland and no movie.

I’ve seen this movie three times and it felt like a different film everytime. However, the one constant was the music. Adding modern versions of Presley’s music felt off to me. I understand why they did it, but it took me out of the film. No one wants to see Doja Cat perform Elvis Presley. However, I will say that Kacey Musgraves’ rendition of Can’t Help Falling in Love is hauntingly beautiful and makes the first time we meet Prescilla (Olivia DeJonge) even better. Honourable mention to Shonka Dukureh, who passed away recently. Her rendition of Hound Dog and her performance in the film as a whole keeps the film grounded. The roots of gospel were obviously very present in Elvis’ childhood and even though the film touches on it a little bit, I really liked the fact they brought in actual gospel singers of african-american decent to perform these roles.

All in all, the film incapsulates the life of Elvis Presley as well as they could. From Graceland, to addiction, to the highs and the lows, they weren’t afraid to show mostly everything. I really enjoyed this film for the most part and its everything I wanted Bohemian Rhapsody to be. As musical biopics go, I still think Ray is the bar to beat but Elvis was not far off.

More info & links:

  • Director: Baz Luhrmann
  • Cast: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge
  • Elvis on IMDB
  • Elvis Official Website

Zach Chabot

Film Reviewer

Zach is a film lover at heart and director. Don’t get mad if he dislikes your favourite film because it is personal, and he does want you to tell him about it on social media. @ZachChabotURL