Film Review: Elvis (2022)

Before I write anything else it must be said that Austin Butler is an inspired choice to play the icon. His performance especially when dancing and signing is the best part of the film. Unfortunately this could-have-been Oscar worthy performance is trapped in a film that is so over-edited, shallow and cringe worthy that he should feel robbed. We all know Baz Luhrmann is style over substance, maximalism and gaudy excess. However in Elvis I felt as if I was watching a child trying to tell me a long convoluted story after having 7 red bulls, fruit loops and creaming soda i.e. this happens, then this happens, and then this happens. When the film started to a packed audience at the Sydney Film Festival I thought I was experiencing hearing problems, it was at once both too loud and not loud enough. Perhaps it was the venue but as the film continued I realised that on top of most dialogue is constant music which makes it very hard to hear what people are saying. My friends concurred that they too struggled. Then there’s the editing. I am not adverse to a split screen or montage, but this editing was so frenzied and incoherent. It felt like a 90s over edited music video, most shots last for mere seconds, sapping all the emotional potential by cutting too quickly to a new scene or shot. The emotional heart of the film is literally cut to pieces by and editor that leaves no oxygen or space on screen. Then there’s Tom Hanks as Elvis’s cartoon villain prosthetics manager. Clearly the Elvis estate loves this account because all the bad behaviour is soaked up by Tom Hank’s ridiculous character. Elvis was no saint but in this he comes out as the dim witted helpless victim to a one dimensional villain. Elvis used African American music and moves on his rise to superstardom and the film depicts him as some kind of civil rights hero, which is a generous stretch. But without a doubt the most grievous sin of this mess is the climax. Without giving the plot away, we all know that Elvis’s later years is the tragedy, the bloated figure struggling to stand signing his heart out in his final performances. This is the equivalent of Freddie Mercury’s Live AID concert moment. The emotional heart of the film. And right in that most pivotal moment Baz cuts to a montage of the real Elvis, robbing Butler of his climatic scene and undercutting the entire film. Baz has become a parody of himself. Do yourself a favour and watch the singing dancing highlights on YouTube when they come out. Safe from from the crystal meth editing and scheming prosthetic jowl . 6/10