Elvis Presley is an icon, an American monument. So it was an ambitious project to tackle this biopic. Who better to live up to this myth than Australia’s Baz Luhrmann? He has a sense of rhythm, a gift for mixing genres that is eye-popping and never boring. We owe him a special thank you Romeo + Juliet, red mill, The Great Gatsby and The come down. And who shall interpret the king? The 30-year-old American Austin Butler, who limited himself to supporting roles, won the Grail.
Everyone knows Elvis’ famous influence, but less so the complex relationship he had with his manager Colonel Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks. It is through his eye that the script is constructed and the story is told. We learn how he launched Elvis’ career in his twenties and how he led the singer’s boat until his untimely death at the age of 42 in 1977. Tom Hanks’ interpretation is the surprise of this film. His character exudes mystery, between genius and smoker, addicted to gambling he would have exploited his foal.
Would he have driven Presley to exhaustion and then tragedy to satisfy his greed? Nevertheless, he must have had the brilliant idea, albeit in this case too cumbersome, to produce it in residence at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, which is known to have paved the way for other artists such as Celine Dion or Britney Spears.
No film without music. She is omnipresent and a character in her own right. Against the backdrop of segregation, we discover how Elvis was taken by music in his Mississippi neighborhood, where African-American culture is dominant. He is touched by the divine power of the gospel, a trance that will never leave him.
Between country, blues, gospel and current rhythms we travel in one crucible visually and musically throughout the film. A whirlwind in which we let ourselves be carried away by our overwhelmed senses. A sensual experience that brings us closer to the king. Add to that all the incredible concert scenes where the costumes make our eyes light up. And also Elvis’ pelvic movements, which provoked the ire of Puritans, as did young women, but not for the same reasons.
There’s the original King and there’s a second King, Austin Butler: let’s take a quick look at the one that’s not pastiche. From his intonation with a drawl southern United States accent to his facial expressions, past his dance moves of course, the resemblance is uncanny. He too was touched by grace. The talent, that’s obvious, but also the hard work he had to put in for the role.
Cast before the Covid, he may have slipped into his character’s skin for far too long. In a way, this allowed him to explore his role more deeply, but it wasn’t without consequences. “The next day I woke up in excruciating pain and was taken to the hospital. The day after I finished, my body had started to switch off elvis‘ he told GQ magazine.
So will we see it or not?
Yes, without hesitation! Unless you have a special bond with the king, it’s a dazzling discovery. If it’s your god, he will answer your prayers. If you love the universe of Baz Luhrmann then it’s the jackpot. And we won’t hide that Butler’s sway still has its minor impact. Luckily the cinemas are air-conditioned…
Elvis by Baz Luhrmann, 2 h 39 min, in cinemas from June 22, 2022.
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