TV Party Tonight! #113

TV Party Tonight! #113

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

[4K/Blu-ray combo]

Give it up for Elvis, the original pop star. He’s popular on a global scale and was one of the fines performers the world has ever seen. Especially compared with pop stars these days, Elvis at least kept it real. What you saw was what you got. He didn’t pretend he wrote any of those songs he performed, because maybe, he was more interested in what you did with that song in front of an audience. Was he a karaoke singer? Perhaps. But it can also be argued that no one has been able to capture his essence ever since. He’s truly a remarkable figure, worthy of analysis, and owed his due with a fitting biopic. Unfortunately, this is a Baz Luhrmann joint, so the king never stood a chance.

This film is a let-down on many fronts, the main one being the switch of the focus from Elvis to his manager Colonel Tom Parker. He’s an interesting figure but a) we never get to the bottom of who he is as a character (in a biopic that shouldn’t be about him) and b) Tom Hanks’ performance is goofy and distracting. That accent is not Dutch: it’s from another planet. And yeah, I have issues with the progression in the film (we never know where or when we are in the timeline), but what really sells the movie and its protagonist short is how Baz basically tries to highjack the whole thing. At every turn you’re reminded by the director’s choices that you’re watching one of his movies, whether it’s over-the-top establishing shots, funny camera angles, overly glitzy colors, and just corny choices. It’s all so distracting and makes you go, “Oh, right – BAZ.” This movie isn’t about Elvis, it’s about Baz Luhrmann. And with someone with such an ego, it makes sense that this would be an attractive subject for them. What an accomplishment it would be to steal the spotlight from Elvis.

It’s a bit of a shame because there’s a great story underneath all this that the director refuses to tell, bolstered by some fantastic performances (the movie is well-cast, aside from Hanks), and the choice of using a relatively unknown like Butler makes perfect sense: you need someone who’s going to become Elvis and isn’t already an icon. But the thing is, you still have to tell that icon’s story. Elvis is two hours and thirty nine minutes, but feels more like candy than an actual meal.

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