Anytime a list of Oscar nominees drops, one thing I know is ninety-plus percent of the time I’m won’t care. Same is true of the best picture nominees of 2022 list though there are a couple films do seem to have that popular quality. Since Elvis is one of them, I decided to give it a chance.
Elvis (2022) Film Review
Humble beginnings don’t stop a young Memphis boy from finding what he loves early in life. After his father goes to jail and his mother left to raise him, he finds what makes him come alive in music. Years later, a young man on the cusp of adulthood, Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) steps up to a microphone and performs.
It’s a show that catches the attention of Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). A man always looking for that next diamond in the rough that only he can polish. Elvis quickly becomes that shiny next thing. Despite being made fun of and no one believing he can make it, Elvis breaks rules, and hearts when he takes the music industry by storm. Only it’s an all too brief ride to the top riddled with grief, pain and unhappiness.
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This is one of those movies that didn’t appeal to me in a “big picture” or had-to-see kind of way. It didn’t sound like something that was a “me” type of flick. Nonetheless, headlines did crop up everywhere touting this. On this occasion, I caved and did watch. The result of which is to say this film is… fine.
To be transparent, my streaming device was messy while I watched this which means there’s an audio sync issue. Something I always find distracting. Nonetheless it’s not enough to hinder my opinion, which falls somewhere in the middle. I’m not going to gush over this like critics have (though unbelievably, I do understand why they did this time), however I will recognize that this is quite the film. There’s a kind of dazzling effect that I’m sure is down to Baz Luhrmann (also the writer here) who is well known for his flashy and epic features. If you’ve seen The Great Gatsby, then you know you’re in for a similar look.
I will admit to being impressed with Austin Butler in the titular role and the costuming is memorable as well. What I think does annoy about Butler is this kind of “myth” or “legend” that is building around him as this character. What I do think is wise is casting an actor like Butler, someone who essentially is being “made” through this role. Plus, he’s backed by a more veteran talent like Tom Hanks. The film is far too introspective and the lack of a linear story rubs me wrong in some ways as well.
The story isn’t so much about Elvis as it is Hanks’ Parker pushing out a kind of scrapbook look into the life of Presley. Sure Butler does gradually build into more of a “part,” but mostly it’s Hanks show steering the narrative. The messy storytelling and back and forth isn’t a style I like but its also very fitting given this is a Luhrmann film. This does dazzle in many ways. This I admit. I think, without knowing about the rest of its nominee peers, it does deserve the nomination nods. There’s lots of interesting facts that I hope are accurate even if a bit overdramatized.
The film is too frenzied for me to consider this a rewatchable type of favorite. Although it would be something I re-watch. Just not in a multiple times kind of way. The film’s long run time overstays its welcome but the time the director and lead actor seem to have put in, does pay off.
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RATING: 3-1/2 out of 5
CAST: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks
CONTENT: This film does deal with adult thematic elements like the use of drugs and their effect on people. Additionally sad historical events do crop up in this and there’s some conversation that deals with them and their significance. There’s plenty of sexual innuendo. One scene depicts a kind of “awakening” for girls in the audience, excited to watch Elvis “wiggle” and dance. There’s a brief “intercut” type scene showing him falling into bed with a woman who isn’t his girlfriend. We see them start to undress and later, another woman lying in her underwear in his bed. There is some profanity and intense scenes where characters arguing (throwing things, etc.). There’s one use of the F-word, too.
Photos: Warner Brothers