Elvis kicks off to its frantic, colourful and dazzling form from its very first frame which shows a mesmerizing colourful bejewelled version of the Warner Brothers logo. It immediately brings back memory of the images of director Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 musical Moulin Rouge. But Elvis is much more than just a musical. It has an amazing true story of a music legend to tell over 2 hours and 37 minutes and Baz Luhrmann takes on an unforgettable journey into the man’s life like never before.
The story is told largely from the point of view of Elvis’s life long partner and collaborator, his manager, the self titled Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks). Many people have attributed Elvis’s downfall and early death to the way the Colonel managed or perhaps more appropriately, mismanaged his star. The film cleverly tries to provide a balanced account of what really happened but the excesses and heavy handedness of the Colonel gets the better of the narration. Tom Hanks takes on the role of the enigmatic and almost cartoonish manager with strive. It is unusual for him to play a dislikeable character, but I think he nailed it.
However, the film’s star attraction has got to be Austin Butler who plays Elvis. His performance is Oscar worthy and simply amazing. He may not look much like the real Elvis, but he mastered the dance moves and singing voice to perfection. His stage presence is electrifying and successfully projects how it must have felt like to witness it during the 1950’s and 60’s.
Baz Luhrmann out did himself with his direction. The way he mixes up the timelines is nothing I have seen done before and very effective. The selection of songs were spot on too giving new meaning to the lyrics with its connection to the story. The movie moves in a dazzling speed and often feels like I have to struggle to keep up. Dialouge takes back seat as the imagery and music takes center stage in conveying the story. Some new music and songs were creatively infused to the film’s stellar soundtrack. These were mostly at the end credit roll.
The final act was made more poignant when actual footage of Elvis performing were seamlessly mixed with the new footage. This really showed us how faithful the film makers were in recreating the look, voice and mannerism of the King.
I cannot say enough on how great this biopic is except to say that this is my favourite movie of the year so far and that it is one tough act to beat. I hope it gets the recognition that it deserves come awards season next year.