“All shook up – but not in a good way”
Director. Baz Luhrmann
Runtime: 159 minutes
Starring: Tom Hanks, Austin Butler, Olivia DeJonge
Summary as a Tweet: An embellished & fictitious 2022 biopic of the king of rock and roll, told from the view of his evil manager.
There aren’t many films that made me give up, but Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” did just that. After all the hype and excitement, I was really looking forward to watching a “must-see spectacular”, but it just failed to keep me hooked – that much in fact that after turning it off I had to go back to it a day or two later to force myself to watch the end of the film.
This 2022 film starring Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Austin Butler as the titular Elvis Presley has garnered mixed reviews online ranging from terrible to incredible. It is billed as telling the story of American music icon Elvis Presley from childhood to becoming a megastar under the management of Colonel Tom Parker, detailing parts of his life, his music, his movies, and his loves. While stating that on the advertisements it felt like more of a story about the Colonel as Tom Hanks narrated the scenes in a weird hybrid European-Creole accent throughout, and the film follows him as much as it does Elvis. I can’t say I’m a lifelong Elvis mega fan, but my wife is, and she was constantly commenting about mistakes and inaccuracies. Even to me though there were things thrown in that didn’t make sense, didn’t happen, and plainly weren’t right. If you investigate the goof’s section of online reviews, you’ll encounter lots of problems, and these started from the beginning of the film and carried on throughout.
I wasn’t sold on Butler as Elvis, perhaps the casting saw something that I didn’t see but I thought he would have made a more convincing John Travolta. I just couldn’t buy into it, it felt like a high-school adaption and the first person who could swivel their hips was picked for the role. With Tom Hanks’ massive back catalogue of acting performances, I felt reassured that I wouldn’t be let down by him, but I was wrong there too. Who on Earth asked him to put on that accent?? Just do a web search of clips with Parker and you’ll find that he never sounded like that. What was with the prosthetics and the fat suit? There are plenty of other actors who could have been cast here instead of Hanks dressed like he’s ready for Halloween.
I’ve enjoyed Luhrmann films in the past and have come to expect that they’ll be a spectacular event, with pleasing visuals and audible treats. The scenes here seemed to jump to different parts of Elvis’s life without fully dissecting things. There were points where I had to ask things like “so he’s been drafted… but has he been to Germany yet, did we miss that?”. It was a bit of a messy and disjointed timeline. As for the audibles, with such an eclectic back catalogue of Elvis songs, and rich R&B music of the era, it felt weird to hear modern music at different time, the hip-hop and rap of the 2020’s really felt out of place.
If like me you go into this film hoping for something like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Rocketman”, “Ray”, Walk the line”, or even “Straight outta Compton” you’ll be severely let down, like me. I’ve seen a lot better films about Elvis, or even just featuring him in scenes. You don’t really learn anything about the rock and roll star here and scenes are clipped together in way that feels like it was a more like a vehicle to show off editing and visual effects than present an enjoyable story. By the end of the film, after persevering on the second sitting, it felt like I’d received the film from Wish.com rather than a big Hollywood studio. It’s a “no” from me. 4/10 at best. It isn’t a film I’d go back to rewatch again and again, which is pity – I’d much rather just watch one of the Elvis films like “Viva Las Vegas” or “G.I. Blues”.