• Ken Silvers

Elvis


Ladies and Gentlemen Elvis may have left the building but has entered your local cinema. The King of Rock and Roll is the subject of the new Baz Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge!", "The Great Gatsby") directed film "Elvis." The film is told from the perspective of his longtime manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), and features Austin Butler in the title role. The film begins in 1997 when Parker is on his deathbed and begins to look back on his time with Elvis and how he met the singer he would form into an American icon. The film shows the poverty ridden childhood of Elvis, and how attending an African American tent revival along with watching a blues style guitar player formed his early fascination with music in the style found on Beale Street in Memphis.When Elvis and his parents Vernon (Richard Roxburgh) and Gladys (Helen Thompson) moved from Mississippi to Memphis, Elvis made a record for Sun Records and when the song was heard by Parker, the so called modern-day PT Barnum, realized Elvis could finally be his ticket to real fame and fortune. Parker was managing country singer Hank Snow at the time and soon had Elvis on the Hank Snow tour. Elvis became so popular on the tour, Parker convinced the singer he could make him a mega star as the two left Snow and the tour behind. At this point Elvis really begins to take off nationally, but even though he is a hit with teenagers, he has incurred the wrath of parents, who feel he is trying to corrupt their kids, and some racist politicians who attack him for his involvement with black musicians. Events turn so bad, the newly minted star could even face jail time in the name of "decency." The story implies Parker had some influence of having Elvis drafted into the US Army as a way to avoid further legal issues. While in the Army two life changing events happen to the star: his mom dies from alcoholism, and he meets his future wife Priscilla Beaulieu (Olivia DeJonge). After he is discharged from the Army, he resumes his career-making tours and begins making films in Hollywood. Through the 1960's Elvis is heartbroken by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy and wants to reflect the state of society in his music, but Parker insists the star continue with non-contorversial tunes. With his movies becoming more repetitive and making less money at the box office, his career begins to tank, and ways must be found to make Elvis uber popular once more. Elvis was able to film an amazing television special in 1968 that was intended to be a Christmas special but had no holiday tunes at all. Despite the lack of Christmas tunes, the show was a huge rating success, and Elvis was back. Eventually Parker convinces Elvis to take up residency at a new hotel in Las Vegas (something artists do today with regularity), where he ends up performing for many years despite his desire to tour the world. During this time he also filmed a special from Hawaii that was beamed across the world via satellite and today can be seen on YouTube. I recommend a watch of this outstanding concert. The film also covers the birth of Lisa Marie, the divorce of Elvis and Priscilla, and the singers continued dependence on various drugs thanks to Parker and a doctor who apparently could be bought. The addictions of Elvis eventually killed him at the age of 42, and it's tragic he never seeked the help Priscilla so desperately wanted him to get. The performances in this film are amazing, with Hanks expertly playing the manager who really mismanaged the star, and kept many secrets from him. Parker insists he was not responsible for the death of Elivs, but the star's love of his public was the cause. Take that as you will. As for Butler in the role of the icon, I was blown away by his performance, and if he is not nominated for an Oscar there is no justice in Hollywood. Butler, in a star making performance, is utterly amazing. The film is also Oscar worthy, and the unique touches of director Luhrmann are all over the screen. This film made me laugh, tap my feet, cry, and have a newfound appreciation of the King of Rock and Roll. This film takes an iconic star, who unfortunately at times during his career was not taken seriously, makes him human, and reveals just how talented and groundbreaking he was. "Elvis" is a must see movie. Now playing in theaters. (Rated PG-13)

5/5