Featuring: Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi, Dagmara Dominczyk
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music, Romance
Director: Sofia Coppola
In Cinemas: Now
When teenage Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Spaeny) meets Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi) at a party, the man who is already a meteoric rock-and-roll superstar becomes someone entirely unexpected in private moments: a thrilling crush, an ally in loneliness, a vulnerable best friend. Through Priscilla’s eyes, Sofia Coppola tells the unseen side of a great American myth in Elvis and Priscilla’s long courtship and turbulent marriage, from a German army base to his dream-world estate at Graceland, in this deeply felt and ravishingly detailed portrait of love, fantasy, and fame.
Based on her Memoir ‘Elvis and Me’, Priscilla Presley’s story is adapted into a movie and told from her perspective in a film look and feel that is so slick and stylish that it almost transforms you back to the sixties. The film begins with 14-year-old Priscilla (Spaeny), living in Germany as her father serves in the military. She then gets introduced to Elvis (Elordi), also in the army, and slowly gets drawn into his orbit. It follows her developing friendship and eventual romance with ‘the King’ as he moves her to Graceland to live and be closer to him. She attends high school nearby, which becomes unusual for her classmates, knowing that she lives in Elvis’s house, the biggest rock star on the planet. There is a sense of jealousy and resentment towards her because of this, and it is highlighted very well; it focuses on Priscilla’s newfound fame and how she copes with the attention and spotlight being on her and her new marriage and relationship with Elvis. When he becomes less interested in her and considers her a woman in waiting, the movie takes shape in character building and plot structure. Elvis is now travelling the country acting in mediocre films and being disloyal to his wife, Priscilla.
This captures her genuine attitude and feelings towards her newly chosen life; we see scenes with her that display an empty and dark hole of loneliness within herself and her surroundings, living in an almost empty mansion. But it also explores and portrays the reality of what many American women endured in the fifties and sixties in conflicting gender roles in society. Specifically, it focuses on Priscilla’s intense and emotionally challenging environment, as she can’t even enjoy the simplistic pleasures in life, like playing with her dog in her front garden, because tourists often gather and gaze through the gate at her. She never has big, ambitious ideas; instead, she favours a more regular and straightforward lifestyle and wishes to work in the local boutique shop. The film also sympathises with Elvis and never demonises him, and how he is also living a precarious life that lacks normality, with people like Colonel Tom Parker antagonising and almost controlling and pressuring his decisions. There is always that divide and similarity between our two main characters, which compare and examine their dealings with fame. Sofia Coppola does a fine job avoiding favouritism and instead approaches and examines each personality fairly and equally and never uses exploitation. Some lovely moments include Elvis cherishing Priscilla and uncontrollably loving her. Then, it shows his not-so-positive side controlling her appearance and presentation and telling her how to do her eyeliner or hair or what dress to wear.
The lead performances in this film are outstanding, entranced by the delivery and focus of this sometimes sad depiction of realism surrounding stardom. Cailee Spaeny, as Priscilla, plays a woman who has to learn very early on when to speak and when not, and she makes those silences count. She delivers a lot with her facial expressions, which are so subtle and believable as if we can almost read her thoughts. Jacob Elordi, as Elvis, came under some comparison to Austin Bulter, who recently also depicted the king of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Elordi gives a more stripped-back version of this icon, departing away from his hip-shaking and musical stage presence. Instead, he discovers and displays Elvis’s more magnetic and charming human core, and at times, it can be a little offputting and terrifying when we see a darker side to him. The Cinematography is mesmerising, and Philippe Le Sourd creates a translucent feeling with a hazy, dream-like intention. Increasingly, It sometimes resembles being in a tiresome trance of difficulty. Then, we can begin to relate and sympathise with Priscilla (Spaeny) as being caught in a trap of control. However, some scepticism surrounds the actual accurate factual details in the film, which can sometimes become distracting and exaggerated. But this is a well-crafted and carefully made film that displays some incredible acting, beautiful visuals, and a perfectly selected soundtrack.