From the outset, it's hard to decide whether the words 'Baz Luhrmann and Elvis' are like chalk and cheese, or a solid match. Then you see the film, and realise everything goes together in perfect harmony.
Elvis Presley is iconic. His legacy burns bright with no signs of fading, and he possessed a performance style recognisable by even the most musically ignorant of folks. There's no doubt he has left a mark on the world. With all of this said, then, it's bold of our own Baz Luhrmann to want to create a film about not only the beginnings, but also the life and times of this historical musical figure. . . And yet, he pulls it off.
Fans of Baz's work will recognise his fingerprints from the very beginning. Sharp, colourful, delightfully chaotic and kaleidoscopic, 'Elvis' is like a living, breathing collage. Scene transitions feel effortless yet full of purpose, and each major creative decision seems intentional. It's a technical masterpiece – a classic Baz Luhrmann trip with an icon of music at its centre.
Pacing is excellent, and even at a rather staggering 2 hours and 39 minutes, the storytelling feels rhythmic and never off beat.
It cannot be overstated – Austin Butler's portrayal of The King is extraordinary, and will almost certainly propel the actor to dizzying new Hollywood heights. It's nuanced, and doesn't feel like a cheap imitation. Austin has clearly done the work and approached the role with love and care. Throughout, the singing vocals are a mixture of Elvis and Austin, with Austin mostly taking care of young Elvis's performances. As an audience member this is indistinguishable – they are one and the same and the blend is masterfully done. Austin also has more than 90 costume changes throughout, each of them as iconic as the last.
Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker is sufficiently villainous and brooding – 'Elvis' is essentially told from his perspective, as he circles the musician in his early days, eventually taking him under his wing and managing him. Tom Hanks presents the colonel's Dutch accent in such a way that it doesn't feel ridiculous – there was potential for it to be on the same level as Jared Leto in 'House Of Gucci', but it's narrowly avoided and Tom's portrayal is a joy to watch.
Olivia DeJonge embodies Priscilla Presley, with all the stunning fashion to match. The way she looks into Elvis' eyes in their early interactions versus how she sees him as they part ways is heartbreaking – it's a gorgeous effort, Olivia is a master at the little things that really make up a fleshed out character.
The incorporation of more modern-sounding music in 'Elvis' also has its own genius. It's slid into a few parts of the film in a way that makes complete sense – for example as one scene moves to the next, or during a montage, but never in the thick of any particular scene so much that it takes away from the fact that this film is set between the '50s-'70s. A particularly bewildering mash-up of Elvis with Britney Spears and The Backstreet Boys gives one particular moment in the film that extra sprinkle of pizazz.
While this creative decision wasn't make or break or even, some might say, necessary, an ever-so-slight air of modernity amid a film set many decades ago gives it a figurative fresh coat of paint.
Swirling and frenzied yet clever and considered, 'Elvis' is a triumph. Stellar performances from leading actors keep the film's heart pumping, while Baz Luhrmann's signature filmic stylings manoeuvre its jewel-encrusted body. A familiar (and well-told) story brought to a 2022 audience with enough appeal to please old fans and the new generation alike.