September 28, 2022
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Loyal Elvis Presley fans find the movie Elvis sad, even depressing. But most biopics about performers are depressing. Even though they purport to tell the factual story of someone’s life, they follow approximately the same plotline.

It goes like this: Young talent is discovered, flames brightly for awhile and is brought low by some combination of greedy managers, drug and alcohol abuse, and false friends. In some cases, the star manages to straighten up and redeem himself or herself. In others, the star dies tragically early and is mourned by fans.

That, in brief, is the story of Elvis’ life – but not the entire story of Elvis, the 2022 movie.

Most people across the nation were introduced to Elvis on a small black-and-white screen. In the movie, he is brought to life in startling pink, the color of the first suit he wears.

On stage he is nervous, barely able to get out the words of a song.

Then he finds his voice. A pulsating rhythm jumps from his guitar. Women scream, cry and are filled with an insatiable desire to touch him.

Seeing and hearing this and noting the crowd’s reaction, Col. Tom Parker identifies exactly what he is seeing.

A circus.

Actor Austin Butler turns in a forceful performance as Elvis. He has studied him carefully, his gestures, his accent, his way of speaking.

And his singing.

Elvis super-fans declare that no one can sing like Elvis, and they are right. Compared to other singers, his vocal range was not great, but he makes the most of every note, makes his voice rasp, soothe or weep, boom and whisper.

Austin Butler could never be Elvis. But he makes you want to listen to more Elvis – and to hear more of whatever it is Austin Butler has to offer.

It is not Butler’s music alone that makes the movie. Excellent actors and musicians play the parts of Elvis’ early influences, and director Baz Luhrman incorporates a variety of styles and artists into the score.

As Tom Parker, Tom Hanks plays both narrator and villain. He crosses up Elvis in thousands of ways, more interested in his own bottom line than that of his protégée.

It is interesting to learn that Elvis wanted to be a serious actor. Anyone who has watched his movies as an adult knows that never happened. Rapid production was friendlier to the bottom line, and people continued to see movies with sub-par scripts simply for the sake of seeing Elvis.

Near the end of his life, Elvis was offered a part that he might have been able to pull off credibly, that of John Norman Howard, the has-been star in the 1976 version of A Star Is Born, a part that eventually went to Kris Kristofferson.

Watching Elvis deteriorate due to drugs, drinking and hubris makes the comparison painful.

But was Elvis’ downfall Tom Parker’s fault?

Not entirely.

At some point in our lives, we have to break away from our early influences and go our own way, no matter how difficult or painful it is. It’s a story consistently told by artists who get beyond their personal failings and have long and successful careers.

The movie Elvis reminds us of how great he was and long for what he could have been.

Now in theaters, the movie is rated PG-13 and runs for 2 hours and 39 minutes. That’s a little long, but the movie is worth the time.

Gail M. Williams

Muleshoe Journal

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