Movie Review: Baz Luhrmann’s glamourous production of Elvis


Actor Austin Butler playing the role of Elvis Presley in the 2022 movie, “Elvis”.

“I’m gonna be forty soon and nobody’s gonna remember me,” uttered softly the most famed man we all know as Elvis Presley.

These words were remarked to his then ex-wife, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, in a limo during one of those child custody swaps where it’s time for the kid to go off for “their weekend.” Most parents do this in a Wendy’s parking lot, but of course, having the title of King of Rock and Roll, it’s done on the landing strip surrounded by private planes. This exchange, along with several other points in the King’s life was demonstrated in the most visually stunning movie of the year, Elvis.

Let’s all be honest with ourselves, we have been waiting for a movie to come out about this beautiful man’s life for the last forty-five years, since August 16th, 1977. Finally, his story was told, in the highs and the lows, by the glitzy performance of Austin Butler. Butler, now the name at the top of any heartthrob list, was made to play Presley from the start. He describes it as first being told by an “old friend” that he should after singing along with Elvis’ Christmas album in the car. Within a few months, a script was written, he was called to audition, and the rest is movie history.

The majority of the movie describes the ins and out’s of the relationship between Elvis and his manager Colonel Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks. The Colonel first started in the circus business, if one would even call that a business, until the day he hears Elvis’ first hit recording of “That’s All Right” and immediately speeds off to find the kid that sang with so much soul. The first time he saw him sing live, the Colonel knew he had a star standing right in front of him, especially after seeing all of the female reactions, screaming, and enjoying watching a performance that many people at the time completely disagreed with.

The production had unfortunately been delayed due to Covid, but that just gave Butler all the more time to transform into the King, as well as plan for a typical Baz Luhrmann film. The director’s distinctive dream-like film-making always stuns on the big screen, as seen in his other films like The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, and Moulin Rouge, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. The Australian director never disappoints with his flashy, almost gaudy, style in production.

Austin Butler was an Elvis from the beginning, but when it actually came to playing the character, Butler obsessed with him for two years. He saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and could not be something that could be played with ease. He strove to know the man himself and not just the musical icon. He embodied him to a T, watching and learning anything he could. Even today, several months after the release of the movie, is he having trouble losing the Elvis’s voice. Not to mention, Butler did all of the singing on his own, making the performance all the more natural.

On the other hand, Hanks found it difficult to play the Colonel. Not only did he have to change his physical appearance tremendously, but he also changed his voice and mannerisms as well. Since the Colonel was usually portrayed as a nobody in documentaries and such, it was a challenge to imitate the Dutch heritage along with southern undertones. As far as appearances go, he wore a fat suit and an amazing amount of prosthetics. But, interesting enough, a veteran makeup artist not only gave a hand in helping transform Hanks but was a former makeup artist on several of Elvis’ own movies.

I find it hard for anyone to not be an Elvis fan, especially after watching this movie. Yes, can be made out as a very troubled man, unknowingly struggling with addiction that ultimately led to his untimely death. But he still paved the way for the future of rock and roll and became an icon for millions of people around the world. This movie depicted that emotion from beginning to end in the most glamorous way. I found this movie to be an emotional rollercoaster, just seeing how much his own manager had taken advantage of him. But the last scene was all tears and smiles seeing Austin Butler recreate his last performance, where he is visibly struggling to breathe, but also shows that he’d always give a beautiful show, from start to finish, every time, until the end.