From the moment Baz Luhermere’s film “Elvis,” was announced, I knew the film was going to be glamorous yet realistic — showing the truth behind the glitz, fortune and fame. As shown in his previous work on “The Great Gatsby,” an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name, Baz is a master of showcasing the glamor and richness behind the life of the subject, but also highlighting important aspects of the time period.
Elvis Presley was always known as a charismatic, talented musician who championed a new sound for over 20 years before his death in 1977. From his husky vocals, high sense of fashionable jumpsuits and his forbidden yet luring dance moves, his stage presence swept the whole world away. His world seemed larger than life but, behind every great success, there’s always a deep story behind it.
Instead of making yet another bio-film about the late Elvis, Baz decided to turn away from focusing the film on only Elvis and put a greater focus on who was really pulling the strings — his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks. Baz portrays him as a parasitic and manipulative person who Elvis, played by Austin Butler, seeks guidance and leans on through most of his rise to fame.
In an interesting artistic choice, Baz made parts of the film narrated by Parker. We see the raw emotions of Elvis enduring his position of being the man to provide for all, yet no one being able to provide for him.
In my opinion, the best part of this film was Baz’s duty to include how Elvis got his spark for the art of music. Rock and roll, jazz and soul music all stemmed from the Black community— including great artists like Little Richard and B.B. King who paved the way for the introduction of these genres into popular music. Despite their incredible talent, racial biases meant they did not get the credit they deserved.
Baz made sure to show that Elvis gave credit where credit was due. He paid homage to the Black community as seen in the scene where he seeks advice from B.B. King on his new-found fame. It continues as Elvis is shown embracing and admiring the lyricism behind a song which is sung by a Black singer.
As the film progresses, you begin to see why the Colonel is portrayed as the leech. He continues to flaunt and work Elvis to his limits, which later starts to affect Elvis’ physical and mental health. It draws him to abuse substances such as alcohol and pills. This alone gave off a strong message to me. With fame, it’s hard to fully trust those around you and to know if they want the best for you or to get the best out of you.
The Colonel eventually signs years of Elvis’ life away to the Residency Hotel in order to use Elvis’ earnings as a bargain for his gaming debt. He continues this abuse even after Elvis tells him that he wants to do a world tour and put himself back out there as the new Elvis. After being notified of the betrayal, he is left broke and broken, all due to his manager’s selfishness.
Baz gave a deep and realistic perspective of Elvis’ life that made me watch this film over and over again. I fully recommend this film to any Elvis fans or those who wish to understand the truth behind what it means to be an artist in the music industry.
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