Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby, red Mill) staged in Elvis an obituary for one of the greatest and most popular music legends of all time. The result is a wild ride through the life of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock’n’Roll. The plot begins in his childhood and deals with Elvis’ musical influence in the white population, which is influenced by country music. The film shows how Elvis, in his first appearances, literally lures the conservative population out of their straitjacket, drives women and men crazy and enchants with his unconventionally revolutionary style and appearance. The hitherto strict separation of whites and people of color falters and falls.
This first phase of the film is completely overblown, funky city titles and pop art comic drawings from the sixties are faded in, the screen is split several times. Anyone who gets involved will find joy in the stylistic devices used, if they are used sufficiently. The scenes in Memphis, at the cell phone club where Elvis found inspiration from the prevailing blues, BB King and Mahalia Jackson, are great. They culminate in recurring flashbacks into an event from Elvis’ childhood that had a significant impact on him. Unfortunately, Luhrmann accompanies these scenes with rap music instead of much more authentic blues music, which seems quite inappropriate.
Luhrmann focuses on the development of Elvis’ career and how the boy who promised his mother a pink Cadillac and a nice house became the rock star Elvis. The film tells this from the perspective of Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, which is a bit irritating: firstly, the biopic doesn’t follow through with this idea consistently, and secondly, it is not he who is the focus of the action, but Elvis.
The film also impressively shows the decline caused by permanent marketing. Unfortunately, the music fades into the background during this time. Here Luhrmann should have devoted himself more intensively to his musical career – after all, Elvis played more than 800 concerts in Las Vegas. To his credit, he covers the important stages of Elvis’ life (at least briefly), even if the singer’s final downfall is neglected.
Austin Butler plays his role as King convincingly, even if you don’t always completely believe Elvis visually. His face looks too bony and the make-up applied too heavily. Tom Hanks also works well as Colonel, but unfortunately Elvis’ wife Priscilla falls far short in the mighty 159 minutes that the film lasts. Baz Luhrmann films the biography of Elvis in his very own way: creative, stuffed and fast. He creates a successful image of a successful but tragic career.