After what feels like 5 years, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is finally here. Ever since Tom Hanks got COVID I feel like I have been hearing about this movie once a week. Probably because it was filmed in Australia, but the hype train to this movie felt enormous. Something that is usually quite dangerous for an audience’s expectations. But its finally here and boy is it something. It’s one of those movies I think will really unite audiences because what works works and what doesn’t really does not…
What is structure?
Walking out of the packed cinema, everyone around me had the same core criticism of Elvis – a weird structure and pacing. The opening of this film is some of the most bat shit crazy effects and transitions I have ever seen. Baz gives zero fucks about what everyone else is doing and as usual goes with his gut. In the first 10 minutes, there’s animation, split screens, psychedelics, and a lot of spinning transitions. While this is not for me personally, I did appreciate it. It felt like a refreshing way to open a movie and it didn’t take me long to settle in. And then, it disappears for the rest of the film…
If Elvis maintained this breakneck speed and crazy style, I would have appreciated it much more. Instead, we move into this slow and dragging pace that makes you look at your clock and go “FUCK ME THERES 2 HOURS LEFT?” It’s not that it’s that bad it’s just when you have such a fast-paced opening, you kind of have to keep a little bit of the momentum going. I could not count how many people were checking their phones or going to the toilet after an hour of this. I think it comes down to one key reason.
The writing of Elvis is unique. A scene in this film kind of goes like this – Tom Hanks narrates something big in Elvis’s career happening and then we cut to the consequence of this rather than showing it. But what really damages this is that all these scenes drag on for a very very long time. And while I do appreciate Baz not just showing us all the famous and well-known aspects of Elvis’s life, this structure gets repetitive and brings the story to a halt. For example, that whole sequence of the Christmas show went for a staggering amount of time. While I know it’s a big part of his career, it just doesn’t fit this movies pacing. I just think that if Baz maintained that fast pace and cut some scenes down, this movie would be a lot more engaging.
Austin fucking Butler
It’s no secret that Austin Butler smashes this performance of Elvis. The voice, the moves, the mannerisms – everything is spot on. To me, it just shows a level of hard work and passion that is so appealing to see on screen and hear about in interviews. Having an actor truly love the role is so addictive and makes the character so believable. On top of this, it never felt like Austin was overdoing it. He never pushed anything to far or begged for the audience’s attention. It just felt like an honest and passionate portrayal of a man that Austin and Baz clearly care about so deeply.
I don’t think its Tom Hank’s fault that his performance in this doesn’t work. Instead, I think it comes down to two key reasons. Firstly, his name. Tom Hanks is just at the level of fame where as soon as he is on screen, it is a challenge for us to suspend of disbelief. Sure, when he plays an American it is easy for the audience to accept his character but let me ask you this. In the last 10 years, are you ever actually watching him and not just thinking that you are watching Tom Hanks on screen? I truly believe he is just so famous and so often typecast that convincing us of these oddball characters has become near impossible.
The second reason is the accent. I think Tom is doing a Dutch/ American accent, but I could not tell. I never settled into it or felt that it was natural for one moment. Its not necessarily terrible it just feels so forced and out of place.
The Australian actors in this are incredible. Everyone in this smashes their accent and never made me question it once. As usual, Richard Roxburgh and David Wenham are amazing. They both play characters that feel out of their comfort zone and yet it still feel so natural and effortless. Kodi Smit – McPhee just takes over the screen whenever he is on it. He is on track to being one of Hollywood’s best actors in the next 5 years.
The Ending (Spoilers)
Man, that ending… Few film endings leave you constantly pondering it and replaying that final scene in your head for days. Elvis did just that to me. The film wraps up very quickly and does this beautiful cut to the real Elvis. What is so incredible is that it doesn’t try too hard to wrap things up in a bow or give a positive spin on the Kings life. Instead, it shows his final days for what they truly were. Bleak and miserable. We see his passion for performing but also the darker side of his life so clearly in those final few moments. It leave the audience with this bittersweet taste in their tongue, seeing how easily such an evil man ruined a true artist. Perfect editing, directing, and acting.
Should you watch Elvis?
I do think its worth seeing in the cinema. Just prepare yourself for a rollercoaster… Apart from the slow second act and Tom hanks’, I did enjoy this movie and would recommend.