Friday, December 9, 2022

‘Elvis’ biopic has entered the building, evoking memories

As the credits rolled in a movie theater a few nights ago, my wife, Kathy, said something like, “That was awesome. I want to see it again.”

I don’t believe we’ve seen the same movie more than once in a theater since “Titanic” in 1997. But I was thinking along the same lines, that this one was at least in my top 10 of all time.

Of course, not everybody would agree, but director Baz Luhrmann’s take on the life of Elvis Presley – simply called “Elvis” – presents the music superstar in a way that touched us deeply, from his ecstatic rock ‘n’ roll beginnings in the 1950s to his tragic death in 1977. Thirty-year-old Austin Butler captures the essence of Elvis, from the voice to the moves to the charisma, even if he isn’t a wax-figure lookalike. He and Tom Hanks, who plays Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker in a subtly threatening manner, both should win Oscars.

The story exaggerates some facts, such as how a proposed Christmas TV special turned into the 1968 “Comeback Special” that returned Elvis to pop culture relevancy and a consequential conversation by Parker and his protege who make a deal on top of a carnival Ferris wheel. But it’s a movie, and the essential truth of what happened is there.

Butler’s portrayal gives longtime fans and young newcomers a realistic idea of ​​what Elvis’s appeal was to audiences, especially to women. But the actor also takes us into the mind and soul of a human being who had to deal with a conniving manager, a broken marriage and increasing loneliness at the top. Elvis was no saint and led a wild life at times. Abuse of drugs had to have been a factor in his death by heart attack. But his faith in God continually showed up in his life, if not in this film.

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