For diehard fans of Elvis Presley, the long awaited biopic on his life couldn’t come soon enough.
“Elvis”, which comes out in theaters tomorrow on June 24th, is narrated from the perspective of Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) aka “the Colonel”, Elvis’s (Austin Butler) notorious manager for two decades. As one would imagine, all of the fodder that came out in the press upon Elvis’s death about his drug use, paranoia and toxic relationship with the Colonel, was on full display in the film. The primary focus being on the relationship between Presley the showman and Parker the snowman, as the narration dubbed their respective roles in the codependent relationship—one plagued by Elvis’ need for an endless supply of drugs and musical freedom and the Colonel’s willingness to keep the drugs flowing so he could have complete control over the emerging superstar’s career, and money. The chemistry onscreen between Hanks and Butler was superb and the actors bath nailed their roles.
SPOILER ALERT: Just a few of the things that were brought to light about the Colonel’s impact on Elvis and his career, were his relationship with his girlfriend Dixie at the beginning of his career and how he was encouraged to deny having any romantic relationships—after all, the female fans would surely be more drawn to a single Elvis. Then there were the threats to Elvis’s life, which were depicted in the film as being staged by the Colonel to keep a firm grip on the music icon, while heightening his paranoia. Not to mention him locking Elvis into a 5-year contract with a Vegas hotel against his will, and orchestrating his draft into the United States Army. But arguably the most atrocious revelation was how the Colonel plowed the performer with countless prescription meds to keep him functioning.
With all the tea dished in this film about Elvis and his villainous manager, what stood out the most were Elvis’s connection to the poor Black community he grew up in as a child that inspired his love for a Black genre of music and the costumes that brought a forgone era to life with the glitz and glam that the troubled showman was known for.
For those familiar with Elvis more for his choice of music—inspired, and to some, appropriated from Black culture—there is a modicum of intrigue on Luhrmann’s portrayal of Elvis, not as an appropriator, but a lover of music associated with Black artists such as B.B. King, Little Richard, Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton and fats Domino, who Elvis hailed as the King of Rock. All of the legendary musicians appeared as characters in the film, highlighting their favorable association with Elvis and inspiration for much of his music and style.
Regarding his style, which was inspired from the looks and shops seen on Beale Street in 1950’s Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis had a penchant for the flamboyant when on stage, from brightly-hued suits with silky shirts to jewel-encrusted capes and oversized shades. But his streetwear evolving from the 1950s to the 1970s, was nothing to balk at. In collaboration with Academy Award-winning costume designer Catherine Martin and fashion designer Miuccia Prada the fashionable looks of Elvis and his young bride Priscilla were brought to life on the big screen.
“Elvis” is a sparkling spectacle paying homage to an iconic figure. Director and co-writer Baz Luhrmann and his wife Catherine Martin have once again outdone themselves in a similar fashion as previous collaborations films including “Romeo + Juliet”, “Moulin Rouge!” and “The Great Gatsby”.
Image Credit: Warner Bros/Prada