Elvis (2022). Film review of the biopic about singer Elvis Presley, starring Tom Hanks and Austin Butler

Austin Butler stars in the film Elvis (2022)
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Drama

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Film review by Jason Day of Elvis (2022), the biopic about singer/actor Elvis Presley, starring Austin Butler in the title role and Tom Hanks as his business manager Colonel Parker. Directed by Baz Luhrmann.

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Synopsis

This biopic of the singer/actor Elvis Presley (played by Austin Butler as an adult) focuses on his rise to stardom, the influences of African-American music that got him started and his struggles with drink and drug addiction. Tom Hanks plays his mentor and business lead Colonel ‘Tom’ Parker.

Review, by @Reelreviewer

We are the same, you and I! We are two odd, lonely children, reaching for eternity.

Colonel Parker (Tom Hanks) on his and Elvis’ shared destiny.

Elvis may have left the building more than 40 years ago, but his rhinestone jumpsuit-clad shadow continues to stalk entertainment corridors.

Director Lurhamann’s lavish and colourful view of the massive up and down career trajectory that was the pelvis’ has the same 1970’s campy visual sense you see in archive footage of his Las Vegas residency during those years.

These were years when Presley wasn’t at his physical peak, and the film chronicles his drink and drug problems in detail. Fans of the great man’s music and movies will no doubt fume a bit at those moments, but at least we have some balance and background here – he became an addict the same way other public figures did, thanks to the ‘vitamin’ shots from his ‘caring’ doctor.

As you’d expect from a visual stylist par excellence such as Luhrman, the production groans at the seams with lavish sets, cracking costumes and a gorgeous colour scheme. Life and stardom are presented to the young Elvis as one never-ending fairground ride, hence Luhrman’s staging of the entire movie like a circus parade of neon, flashing lights, velour, women and addictions.

On one level, Butler’s performance is merely a great impersonation. He looks like the character he plays, but also nothing like him, but what he nails almost perfectly is Elvis’ speaking and singing voice.

Yes, it is Butler’s voice you hear during Elvis’ earlier years (although their voices were blended during the later sequences when we see Elvis as a more established singer). No wonder the showstopper numbers are that – there’s cracking energy when Butler/Elvis is on stage.

It’s a hugely entertaining impersonation anyway and Butler has an electrifying, ‘kerpow’ presence. Also up there with him is Helen Thomson as his fiercely loyal ma. Like Butler, she has the start of a resemblance to the real-life Gladys, with the two actors sharing a definite physical similarity.

Elvis has impeccable casting, so you’d think having a legend like Hanks sharing the film would round off its acting credentials.

Instead, he’s totally and surprisingly off-key, like a poor, tuneless circus clown hobbling around the palatial sets, its corridors echoing with his distinctly annoying, non-Dutch accent.

He sounds a bum note which, as the co-lead, unbalances a decidedly overlong film.

Cast & credits

Director: Baz Luhrmann. 2hr 39 min/159 min. Warner Bros./Bazmark Films/Roadshow Entertainment/The Jackal Group/Whalerock Industries. (12).

Producers: Gail Berman, Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Patrick McCormick, Schuyler Weiss.
Writers: Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce, Jeremy Doner.
Camera: Mandy Walker.
Music: Elliott Wheeler.
Sets: Catherine Martin, Karen Murphy.

Tom Hanks, Austin Butler, Olivia de Jonge, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Kelvin Harrison Jr., David Wenham, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Lukle Bracey, Dacre Montgomery, Leon Ford, Gary Clark Jr., Yola.

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