Warner, June/July 2022, 2 Std. 39 Min.
Sooner or later it was bound to happen, having the eventful life of Elvis Aaron Presley alias the King of Rock’n’Roll on the big screen. And this biopic should not to be missed – you simply need to experience this “larger than life” style. Some of the names involved should already speak volumes – director and screenplay (co-)author* Baz Luhrmann (Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom), Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, telling the story from his perspective. This story should be familiar to everyone, and still any bet you’ll shed a few tears at the end and feel an irresistible urge to put on some blues, gospel and Elvis songs…
And then there’s this charismatic young guy whose career should now be rapidly on the rise, paralleling the character he’s depicting (hopefully not ending as tragically in a gilded cage, though): Austin Butler as Elvis has nothing to do with those many Elvis imitators, his performance is honest, intense, a re-interpretation re-incarnating the character – he sings himself and the soundtrack features a mix of his and Elvis’ voice. He not only holds his own next to Hanks, who’s gleefully giving the slimy villain, but even outshines him in several scenes. Austin’s deep voice, the likeness – almost identical profiles, he makes the scrawny teenager in the 1950s Memphis slums as believable as the washed-up drug wreck in Las Vegas. Well, in the case of the latter, they could have given him a much bigger fat suit….
As the reactions of critics and audiences so far suggest, Austin could follow in the footsteps of Rami Malek (as Freddy Mercury) and soon take home a little bald & shiny statuette. Whether there will be several of these statuettes for the film as such is hard to say. What others criticised as too much, I felt could have been even more, namely Baz Luhrmann’s legendary opulence, eccentric sets and costume bling excesses … Especially the Las Vegas narrative could have been just as crazy as the first half biopic hour. The soundtrack is naturally top level – not only the Elvis classics, but also his influences and roots, plus some wild remixes – the various concert scenes alone (e.g. Alton Mason as Little Richard, but also David Wenham as Hank Snow, the “anti-Elvis”) are worth “sitting out” these almost three hours even several times…
*script: Baz Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce