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Elvis with Tom Hanks and Austin Butler directed by Baz Luhrmann review

REVIEW: Elvis (12A)

Full disclosure – I'm not a big Elvis Presley fan, but I found director Baz Luhrmann's biopic highly enjoyable.

Austin Butler in his first big starring role is a revelation as the titular Mr Presley.


The reliable Tom Hanks (as Elvis's controversial manager Colonel Tom Parker) puts on a strange accent that to my ears sounded part New Orleans/creole and part European, for want of a better description. But if that's what the good/bad Colonel spoke like, what the hey.

The 160-minute showpiece takes us through the mixed-race Mississippi background – which helps explain how he delivered blues and RnB-influenced music to a white audience – of comic fan Elvis's childhood, and Luhrmann nicely gives this section a comic-booky feel with appropriate captions and effects.

The film is seen mainly through the narrative eyes of Parker, who latched onto the 'King' of rock'n'roll as a young man and controlled his career via a sham family managerial contract notionally headed by Presley senior (Richard Roxburgh) until Elvis's death in 1977.

His rise to superstardom is covered and it's made clear early on that Elvis resented the hangers-on and the price of fame.

The rest of the tale revolves around Elvis's attempts to escape the clutches of Parker, who periodically wrestles back control.

We get the Army years, the marriage to and break-up with Priscilla (played by Olivia DeJonge), the '68 comeback special and the excess, pills and girls.

If you want to know why Elvis didn't go on world tours and ended up tied to a long residency in Las Vegas during his twilight years, the film explains why.

Luhrmann's background in musicals and spectacle like Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge serves the production well. While it overall doesn't feel too bloated and overlong, the Vegas era drags a bit.

Hanks portrays Parker as not a one-note schemer and chancer but a more sympathetic character.

You don't need to be a specific rock'n'roll fan to appreciate this study of manipulation and exploitation. No doubt dramatic license has been used for the sake of brevity.

But I'm certain the hardcore aficionados will enjoy Butler's performance which isn't just "have a brand-new Cadillac, uh-huh" caricature.

Peter Woodhouse

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