ELVIS 2022 – dir: Baz Luhrmann
Music biopics of famous artists can be hit or miss, especially if the artist being depicted is hugely iconic. The most crucial aspect for the success of these films is - can the actor/actress playing said artist pull off the character with enough believability and realism to be rendered as convincing as possible.
Elvis Aaron Presley was a one of kind and unique looking man. He has been depicted by various actors, perhaps the most popular being Kurt Russell in John Carpenter’s ’79 tv movie Elvis, which also garnered a theatrical release. Russell was already a well-known young actor at that time from his appearances in Walt Disney family orientated films.
In Australian director Baz Luhrmann’s new biopic Elvis, Baz has cast a young, relatively unknown American actor Austin Butler, to be his dazzling showman. That Butler was not really on the radar has not mattered. This guy was born to play Presley and he rocks. His looks, charisma and acting talent have been a captivating selling point for the film, and he truly captures the essence of Elvis.
The big name in the cast is Tom Hanks, who plays Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s lifelong manager. While the film is about Elvis Presley, it is a story that is largely told from The Colonel’s perspective. An illegal immigrant from The Netherlands, who originally worked in travelling carnivals and had skills as a confidence trickster (A Snowman), changed his name to Tom Parker before serving in the US Army. Apparently discharged with a mental condition after going AWOL and serving time in solitary confinement, with a little experience in the music industry as a promoter, Parker set his sights on Elvis after witnessing a very early gig performance.
The Colonel played a huge part in launching Elvis’s career and fame, yet in a sense, also preyed upon and gaslighted Elvis to keep himself in fiscal means and to feed a serious gambling addiction. Hanks, being the skilful actor he is, manages to not stray into caricature mode and is even able to convey an inkling of sympathy for Parker. The Colonel had full control over Elvis, snowed him, yet at the same time loved and respected him.
Baz Luhrmann is very much his own visual stylist, and his work may not appeal to everyone. He is often unconventional in presentation, can upset purists with his approach (sic)Romeo and Juliet, uses kinetic/hyped up camera and editing tricks and may add anachronistic flair to enhance a mood. Luhrmann could be considered a director that may appear to get in his own way, yet as a filmmaker, he is also a free-form expressionist. His outlandish style works wonders here, because he shows restraint when needed and gives us the frenzy when appropriate. His film is enticing and intoxicating to experience.
This terrific looking movie has been entirely shot on the Gold Coast of Australia, largely at Movie World studios. One does not need to be a fan of Elvis, to get enjoyment and fascinating insight into this man’s remarkable life and career.
Available at Main Library display DVD (ELV)
By Darren Cunningham