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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 3, 2022



‘ELVIS’ is not the usual investigative biopic about an iconic celebrity. It’s made by Aussie filmmaker Baz Luhrmann who has come up with a very stylized interpretation about the life and career of Elvis Presley, known as the King of Rock and Roll.

We were in high school when we first heard of Elvis with his hit song, “Heartbreak Hotel”. More hits followed and he also successfully invaded Hollywood with movies like “Love Me Tender” and “Jailhouse Rock”. 

He died of cardiac arrest in his own Graceland Estate on August 16, 1977 when he was only 42 years old. 

But his legend lives on as the Guinness Book of World Records names him as the best selling solo music artist of all time. 

The life of Elvis has been filmed several times before. The first was in 1979 (7 years after his death), a TV movie titled “Elvis” starring Kurt Russell and directed by John Carpenter. 

It got Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. And in 2005, there was a two-part mini-series starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

There’s also a documentary, “Elvis Presley: The Searcher” produced by HBO Films in 2018. 

There are also two films about the meeting of Elvis with then U.S. Pres. Richard Nixon at the White House on December 21, 1970, “Elvis & Nixon” and “Elvis Meets Nixon”.

Luhrmann’s “Elvis” is a non-linear collage of glittery images and a grand scale extravaganza of entertaining sequences about Elvis. 

The film works mainly because Austin Butler is perfectly cast in the title role. Butler was chosen in auditions where he bested better known actors like Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort and even popular British singer Harry Styles.

He’s not a clone of Elvis and he doesn’t just mimic or impersonate him, but he uncannily captures his mystic, including the slushy speech, swiveling hips and gyrating pelvis. 

He nails the best known jukebox hits of Elvis and he’s really blonde in real life. so he just dyed his hair for the movie. 

He really transforms into Elvis and the way he commands the film with such self confidence will surely make him a household name. 

He interprets Elvis as an initially shy kid who becomes a superstar not really emotionally prepared to deal with all the trimmings of big stardom, which is why he’s so gullible in relying so much on his manager, Col. Parker. 

The role gets more complex as he goes into prescription drug abuse, but Butler never goes over the top with his emotions.

He’s not just playing to the gallery with the hopes of bagging an Oscar for playing a world renowned personality, making his performance just the perfect foil to the showy physicality of Tom Hank’s Parker.

Butler is 30 years old and started as an actor in teen dramas. 

He has acted on Broadway in “The Iceman Cometh” and on the big screen, he has appeared in a supporting role as a member of Manson’s gang in Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”. 

He now gets his big break as Elvis and because of this, he has already been cast in “Dune II”. 

If you’re familiar with the work of Luhrmann, then you know he is primarily a showman who can be quite self-indulgent at times. 

Sometimes, he’s effective, like in “Moulin Rouge” and other times, he fails, as in “The Great Gatsby” where substance is sacrificed over style. 

“Elvis” is told from the point of view Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), who also acts as narrator while on his death bed in 1997. 

Hanks, who often plays endearing roles as America’s dad, is playing against type here as the irritating, control-freak manager who got 50 percent of Elvis’ earnings for two decades. 

Hanks is made to wear a fat suit and with prosthetic make up to make him balding and bloated. 

He is annoying here, even repulsive, but that’s how Col. Parker is meant to be, and Hanks is obviously having a blast playing a villain role. 

He’s a carnival huckster who’s already managing country music singers Hank Snow and Jimmie Rodgers. 

But when he sees Elvis, a fan of black music in the famous Beale Street, performing in a Memphis state fair, he’s intrigued by the idea of a white guy singing like a black one. 

Thanks to Elvis’ exposure to B.B. King, Big Mama Thornton, Rosetta Tharpe and Little Richard. 

He convinces Elvis and his parents to let him manage his career and he quickly gains lots of swooning fans that results into a violent incident in one of his gigs. 

Moralists censure him and accuse him of fostering juvenile delinquency. 

Elvis is then drafted into the army to avoid any legal kinks and he serves in Germany. 

It is there where he meets Priscilla Beaulieu (Olivia de Jonge, who we just saw as a blonde in the riveting mini-series “The Staircase”). They marry and have a daughter, Lisa Marie.   

The film maybe fragmented but it has several memorable scenes with sensory overload. 

Among the the terrifically staged musical sequences, the best is his Christmas TV special where Parker insists he sings “Here Comes Santa Claus” and where he gets to sing a medley of various Elvis hits like “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Hound Dog”. 

Also dazzling is his spectacular opening show at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, capturing the frenzy and energy of an Elvis performance.

Among the touching scenes, we like him best in his crying scene after his mother died and his musings about his career while sitting on the broken letters of the famous Hollywood sign.  

Ex-wife Priscilla, daughter Lisa Marie and granddaughter Riley Keough all approve of the film. Lisa Marie said watching the film reminded her of her son, Benjamin Keough, who committed suicide in 2020. 

Riley is 32 years old and is an actress and director herself, having appeared in films like in “Kiss of the Damned” and “Mad Max Fury Road”, and directed the film “War Pony” that was shown in the Cannes Filmfest last May.

And Elvis lives on. And the next filmbio: Michael Jackson.