‘The King of Rock and Roll’ is the subject of an entertaining biopic
NEW YORK (CNS) — The wise say only fools rush — and avoid seeing “Elvis” (Warner Bros), a highly entertaining, turbocharged biography of a music legend.
This lavish, over-the-top production has all the creative hallmarks of its flamboyant director, Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge!”, “The Great Gatsby”). The story unfolds at a dizzying pace, propelled by sensational musical numbers, good use of stock footage and a star performance by Austin Butler.
Although the script – by Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner – gets soapy at times, the true story remains compelling, the meteoric rise and tragic fall of the best-selling solo artist of all time, against the racist music scene of the 1950s and 1960s.
The story opens in rural Mississippi, where young Elvis (Chaydon Jay) is transfixed by the atmospheric music and suggestive dancing of his African-American neighbors, on display (chastically) in church services and (lasciviously) in clandestine bars.
Years pass and Elvis embarks on a musical career inspired by these styles. With his slicked back hair, burning gaze and swinging hips, he’s an overnight sensation.
A carnival huckster, “Colonel” Tom Parker (Tom Hanks, well padded with prosthetics), sees his meal ticket and offers to be Elvis’ manager, with the blessing of his parents, Gladys (Helen Thomson) and Vernon (Richard Roxburgh) .
Focusing on one of Elvis’ screaming female fans, Parker recalls, “It tasted like forbidden fruit. She could have eaten him alive.
The overtly sexual nature of Elvis’ style eludes his holy mother. “The way you sing and move is God given,” Gladys tells her son, “so there can’t be anything wrong with that.”
In this case, the mother does not know better. But the dirt-poor Presleys happily land on Easy Street with Parker in tow. The villain of this story and a real Rasputin, Parker keeps Elvis on a short leash, while getting rich on the side.
The seductive Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge), who becomes his wife and confidante, competes for Elvis’ attention and tries in vain to protect him from the excesses of success.
Meanwhile, Elvis faces threats from authorities, who see him as a threat to race relations and the status quo, and struggles to stay relevant as tastes change once a quartet of mop guy from Liverpool arrives in the United States.
Amazingly, Elvis’ movie career was glossed over, preventing viewers from getting a glimpse of his first onscreen kiss with actress Dolores Hart in 1957’s “Loving You.” Hart left Hollywood six years later. late to become a Benedictine nun.
Cushioned and furiously paced, “Elvis” borders on sensory overload – think shake, rattle and roll on steroids. With its well-known conclusion, it remains a cautionary tale best reserved for mature teenagers and above.
The film contains suggestive dancing, drug use, implied adultery, and several profane and crude swearings. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents are strongly cautioned. Some content may be inappropriate for children under 13.
McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.