What chance did a poor boy from Tupelo, Mississippi (pop. 38,000 in 2022) in 1935 have of becoming a world-famous singer and movie star? Positively none, until Elvis Presley was born there in a two-room shack on January 8, 1935, the living half of twin boys (Jesse was the stillborn twin). Tupelo was a small town filled with junked old model T- Fords and rusty pick-up trucks dumped at down-at-the-heels ramshackle bungalows where “ice boxes” decorated the unplanted front yards.
Wildly talented director Baz Luhrmann (responsible for the dazzling Moulin Rouge!) has tackled the Presley story for Warner Bros. and has fashioned an astonishingly entertaining musical drama with the new film Elvis.
With the help of his wife Catherine Martin, who also designed the costumes and created the production design (with Karen Murphy), Luhrmann has once again achieved an eye-catching look to the film that enhances the excitement of Presley’s performances. Imagination wins out on this score, and the colors and inventive scenes shot by creative cinematographer Mandy Walker excite the viewer as much as the nod to Presley’s blues influence. As a young boy, Elvis got interested in music early on in his life and spent many days and nights listening to the great Black musicians that performed on Memphis’ iconic Beale Street.
Playing a great part in Presley’s rise to fame was his promoter Col. Tom Parker. Some movie fans might find Hanks’ performance laughable. Parker was allegedly from Holland. As such, Hanks has affected a strange accent. In probably the worst performance of his career, we can only hope the beloved actor can find a better part in his next film.
Ignoring Hanks’ comical accent, the film’s music can be enjoyed to the fullest as Butler is fabulous as Elvis and keeps us rockin’.
Elvis fans will throw brickbats at me, but newcomer Austin Butler is ten times more handsome than the iconic singer from yesteryear. Yes, Elvis was good looking in a sullen sort of way, and he could wiggle and get fans screaming with sexual anticipation as no other star ever did. Youngster Butler has captured all that in his interpretation of Presley and will have today’s movie goers fainting from high blood pressure and premature puberty.
We all know the sad story of Elvis’ drug-addled later years. It is presented here in all its unpleasant episodes. But it is the music we will all remember. It reminds us what a great musical pioneer Elvis was in his early years and what a treasure he truly was in American music.
Elvis achieved immortality for being one of the few “celebrities” to have died on the toilet. In 1760, George II of Great Britain died of an aneurysm at the posh Kensington Palace throne. Elvis was joined in more modern times by MGM movie icon Judy Garland who keeled over from a drug overdose in 1969 at age 47. There were others in history, of course, but Elvis’ and Judy’s lives were flushed down the drain with their drugs to great publicity.
(Released by Warner Bros. and rated “PG-13” by MPAA)