Wed | May 31, 2023

Review: ‘Elvis’ – A new star is born in Austin Butler

Published:Friday | July 22, 2022 | 12:11 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer
Austin Butler in a scene from ‘Elvis’.
Austin Butler in a scene from ‘Elvis’.

With a powerful voice and electromagnetic stage presence, Elvis Presley is undoubtedly one of the most significant performers of the 20th century. He also happens to be one of the most controversial. History remembers the legend known for taking care of business, with his pompadour and cape clad costumes. The new film is more than content to revel in Elvis idolatry. It’s as much of a celebration as it is a character study.

Austin Butler brings the icon down to earth and gives a performance that’s appropriately mesmerising. When Elvis needs to be the King, Butler adopts the crown with ease, but he’s also a master at the film’s quieter moments. It’s hard to think of a personality like Elvis Presley as being insecure, yet Butler showcases the man beneath the myth. Often Elvis is surrounded by absurd wealth, but the film manages to evoke tremendous sympathy.

Much of that sympathy comes from his relationship with manager and manipulator Colonel Tom Parker. Under what must be pounds of prosthetic make-up lies Tom Hanks, delivering an off brand portrayal of a seedy villain. A circus ringleader turned music producer that sees Elvis as his ticket to a lasting legacy, irrespective of the singer’s wishes.

The movie ebbs and flows like many music biopics, showing the highs and lows of Elvis’ career, with iconic performance after iconic performance. With its 2 hours and 40 minutes, Elvis gives the audience a comprehensive look at the journey, but miraculously never loses pace. The film is as flashy as you expect and delivers on the spectacle, but it also recognises the sins of the past.

There’s frequent mention of Elvis’ success performing music in a style he learned from black musicians. A moment has Elvis facing the facts: His fortune is far beyond what any such musician would dream of performing the same music. While the film recognises his influences, it doesn’t go so far as to condemn him, laying most of the star’s misgivings at the feet of his self-serving manager.

As with any biopic, the film no doubt takes its fair share of liberties with the truth. The story of the film shows a young man who rose to unheard of levels of fame in a short amount of time, all the while making it his mission to stay as authentic as possible. True or not, the way the story is told is incredibly entertaining, that will have you engaged and enthralled from beginning to end.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies.