The Stream: Everything about Tom Hanks in this movie is strange and off-putting.
The Big Screen: Austin Butler gives a fantastic performance.
The Final Bill: An unconventional biopic with a must-see, star-making performance at the center.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Baz Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce, and Jeremy Doner (screenplay)
Stars: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, Richard Roxburgh
Genre: Drama, Biography, Music
Rating: PG-13 for substance abuse, strong language, suggestive material and smoking
Runtime: 2 hours 29 minutes
Production Companies: Warner Bros., Bazmark Films, Roadshow Entertainment
Platform: In theaters June 24, 2022
Trailers: White Bird: A Wonder Story, Moonage Daydream, Three Thousand Years of Longing, Where the Crawdads Sing, Don’t Worry Darling, Bros, Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song, Black Adam
Hey, Streamers! Do you like a good musical biopic? It seems like every summer has one on deck like Rocketman in 2019 and Respect in 2021. Actually, Bohemian Rhapsody was a big hit when it was released in the fall of 2018; and, I hear there is a Whitney Houston movie coming later this year. Anyway, the highly anticipated Elvis biopic, Elvis, directed by the eccentric auteur, Baz Luhrmann, is now in theaters for your viewing pleasure. Here goes a little more conversation and little less action about Elvis.
Baz Luhrmann, who brought the can-can-do attitude to Moulin Rouge and the flashy, modernist take on The Great Gatsby to the big screen, has directed and co-written this biopic of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. Luhrmann tells this cinematic biography of Presley from the perspective of his villainous, scoundrel of a manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). We get Elvis (Austin Butler) from a very young age and his experiences with Black music through his tumultuous career until his *spoiler alert* untimely death at 42 years old. Lots of music, lots of costumes, and lots of frenetic editing ensue. Also, Tom Hanks does a random Dutch-ish accent. I can’t explain it.
The biggest selling point for Elvis is the dynamic performance by Austin Butler as Elvis. A movie like this fails, or succeeds, almost entirely based on its lead actor’s performance. I can’t tell how much Butler naturally looks like Elvis, but he did the work to sound and perform like Elvis as well. He is completely believable as a charismatic young star, and his performance grows as Elvis gets older. In fact, Butler is so good that many of the other performances around him fade into the background. Unfortunately, one performance that does not fade enough is Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker. Hanks has a ridiculous accent, and he is in questionable makeup and fat suit. I understand that Parker is the villain of the story, but there is no subtlety in the storytelling or the performance regarding Tom Parker. It is very frustrating and distracting. Every time Hanks is on the screen the illusion of the movie is shattered.
Leaving the awful Tom Hanks performance aside, the film really looks great. They have recreated so many times that are marvelous. The best of the recreations is the comeback “Christmas” special that Elvis did. The production values are so good surrounding this sequence, which only enhances Butler’s stellar acting. Also, there are some really cool musical cues here. Luhrmann loves a mash-up of a modern song and a classic. He uses Doja Cat and Britney Spears at interesting times.
Now, the movie is more than 2 hours. There is a lot of editing, especially early on, so it feels like it moves quickly; however, the movie does have lulls particularly in the last third. At a certain point, we all know where this is going, so let’s just hurry up and get there. In fact, I think the movie could have ended 30 minutes before it did.
Ultimately, Elvis is an alright biopic that has an exceptional lead performance by Austin Butler. While the long runtime is a hurdle, there is flashy direction and lots of musical cues to keep you engaged. The story being told from the point of view of the main antagonist is unique and unexpected, but the same plot points of most biopics are still here. If you’re not already an Elvis fan, I don’t know that Elvis sells him to a new audience. Grab a bowl of popcorn at a matinee price, if you’re going to the theater.