Andrea’s film review – Elvis

Elvis ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2  Review by Andrea Carnevali

From his childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi to his rise to stardom starting in Memphis, Tennessee and his conquering of Las Vegas, Nevada, Elvis Presley becomes the first rock ‘n roll star and changes the world with his music. Out in cinemas.

Right from the very beginning, you know you are watching a “Baz Luhrmann’s  production”: even the Warner Bros logo at the start is made up in gold, surrounded by all the kitsch, flamboyance and extravagant excess which have always been a trademark of the director’s filmography, for better or worse.

If you’ve seen his Romeo + Juliet (a film I actually adore) or Moulin Rouge, you’ll know what I am talking about: Luhrmann pushes on all cylinders, using, as ever, every single trick in the film-maker’s handbook. Every single second of this film bursts with his flashy style and exuberance.

The editing is so frenetic that the overall effect can certainly feel overwhelming, from speeded-up segments, slow motions, split screens, graphics and captions, as well as the use of different film formats which at times gives it a “period” look.

On the downside, the film feels almost like the trailer for a movie about Elvis, well a very extended one, since it’s two hours and 40 minutes. I remember after about 20 minutes I thought to myself “when is it actually going to start?” and then it dawned on me that that was the way it was going to be until the end.

It can feel slightly overwhelming to be honest and ironically at times it can play against the actual drama and emotions that the film is trying to depict: things happen so quickly and you’re so bombarded with visuals and sound, that you hardly have the time to feel sorry for the characters, even in the most dramatic moments (deaths etc).

I probably counted three or four short moments in the whole film when it finally allowed itself to be a little bit quiet, slower, the music stopped and I started feeling something…

It did get a little bit better in the last act, when maybe even Baz himself was a bit tired and decided to slow down a bit and eventually develop his character a little bit more.

But it’s also worth pointing out that if it weren’t for of all this “ultra-style” and this assault on the senses, the film wouldn’t be very interesting.

Indeed the story is pretty basic and follows the usual biopic tropes, seen in most films of this kind. It’s very episodic, and quite cliché-ridden as well, starting with your typical “let me tell you a story” device and crammed with a lot of expositionary voice-over, supposedly told by Tom Hanks’ character, a rather indecipherable (not sure whether intentionally so) Colonel Tom Parker, (Elvis’s agent). However we often see moments in the film during which he was not present at all… so how is he telling us about them? Go figure.

Indeed, despite the very long running time (which surprisingly goes by pretty quickly), the film skips quite fast through the rise to success and his filmography (probably an issue with copyrights there), while choosing to focus on the relationship between Elvis and his manager (a Tom Hanks against his typecast).

I have to say, I could have done with fewer renditions of songs and more original, but then again, that’s Baz Luhrmann for you.

Aside from all that, the real star of the film is Austin Butler. He is Elvis! He looks like him, he speaks like him, he moves like him and he sings like him. A real revelation and hopefully the first of many starring roles for him.

To conclude, yes, it’s indulgent, frenetic, all over the place, bloated, but also electric and highly entertaining.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick

Elvis is out in cinemas now.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

Support The Chiswick Calendar

The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here