The brief life of Elvis Presley is not something that fits neatly into a conventional biopic formula, though many have tried. It was, perhaps, always going to take a director as wild and visionary as Baz Luhrmann to do something that evokes the essence of the King’s 42 years. Luhrmann knows better than to adapt a Wikipedia page when it comes to a such a singular, larger-than-life star whose legend has only intensified and obscured almost a half a century after his death. Plus, he found a perfect star in Austin Butler, who fearlessly embodies the icon without ever slipping into impersonation.
With “ Elvis,” which arrives in theaters Friday, Luhrmann and Butler have created something gloriously messy — a maximalist opera of contradictions, styles, truths, myths, memories and headlines. It doesn’t explain, apologize or concern itself with logic. Dates and locations, when they’re conveyed at all, often fly by with little fanfare in montages of newspaper headlines or broadcasts. No one who doesn’t already know the facts of Elvis Presley’s life is going to ace any trivia round about him after this film. It sidesteps or completely disregards some seemingly significant things like the fact that he met Priscilla (given depth by Olivia DeJong) when he was 24 and she was 14. His entire Hollywood career is summed up in a quick montage that ends with Tom Hanks’ Colonel Tom Parker saying in voiceover that “we had a lot of fun.”
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