The best movie I’ve seen this year – and one of the funniest moments I’ve had at the movies in a while – is now on one of the best streaming services. And you should plan to watch it as soon as possible.
I’m talking about Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, which recently arrived on HBO Max after a run in theaters earlier this summer. And believe me, it’s weird for me to type the words “Elvis” and “good movie” next to each other.
My first exposure to Elvis Presley came primarily through the movies he made, not the music he recorded. And I’m referring to the interest in Elvis’ financial protection business in the “can’t look away from danger” way. Between 1956 and 1969, Elvis starred in 31 movies. With the exception of Jailhouse Rock (1957), these Elvis movies aren’t very good, running the band from middling to exasperating to “Man, he’s playing the truck driver again? “
The Elvis biopic from the director Baz Luhrmann avoids the misfortunes that befell Elvis Presley the actor to give us a movie that is compelling from the beginning to the end of its 218 running time minutes. It’s a familiar story even if you can’t tell the chapter and verse of Elvis’ life story, but it’s told in an interesting, thoughtful way, with some stellar performances.
Give credit to Baz Luhrmann, whose hyper-stylized style in movies can alienate people. But when it comes to telling Elvis’s story, that kind of scene really serves the theme. Elvis Presley cut a larger than life figure so a movie dedicated to telling his life story is just as glorious.
There are many smart storyboards. Elvis’ original story has become a legend. the part of the film that introduces Elvis’ lost years as a matinee film is tricked out with a cheesy credit sequence that could have come straight from movies like Girls! Daughter! Daughter! or Fun in Acapulco. The Vegas years were rough and tumble. Luhrmann uses every tool in his work and it works.
Elvis’ music is central to the film, as you might expect, whether it’s an addition to the story or in the background. In a typical edition of Luhrmann’s films, several Elvis songs were included with modern hip-hop versions. It’s a technique I hated in Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby from a decade ago, but in Elvis, it works, proving that some songs stay with us forever. away, growing over time and empowering future generations.
If you ask yourself why make a movie about a pop song from half a century ago, the song that includes Elvis – originals and remixes – give you an answer.
All this is a 2-hour music video without much action, and Austin Butler gives us a great turn as Elvis, who is lost in action. Any biopic that runs the risk of translation becomes a metaphor – especially a movie about Elvis Presley, who founded his own house business of Elvis look-a-likes. Butler gives us a flesh-and-blood Elvis, a man whose passion for music and strong loyalty to those around him come to blows with each other at the end of the film.
Tom Hanks’ performance as Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s malevolent boss who finds a way to squeeze the last dimes from his patrons, is not enough for me. Hanks has to do some heavy lifting – he is not only the villain of the piece, but also the narrator, and he is on the screen as the title. It’s a good job – this is Tom Hanks, after all – but you won’t forget for a moment that it’s him underneath those prosthetics and that Dutch accent.
Maybe the best idea for Elvis is from my daughter, between just being familiar with some of Elvis’ songs and who knows the singer-actor because of my interest in the movie 1960s Clambake. He went with me to watch it in the theater, not sure what to expect and wary when the movie didn’t run.
During one of Butler’s Elvis-like performances, I looked over at my daughter and saw her tapping her feet to the music. At times, he would lean forward in his chair. And afterwards, when he got home, he couldn’t stop talking about the movie.
It’s a real Elvis movie that fans and newcomers alike can appreciate. Make sure it’s part of your rotation while you can.
Yes: Elvis isn’t the only movie site on streaming services. Look at the Here are seven great new movies premiering this weekend.