Immensely enjoyable, but an exercise in stamina

Austin Butler plays the lead character in Elvis. Photo: supplied
Austin Butler plays the lead character in Elvis. Photo: supplied

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Tom Hanks, Austin Butler, Olivia De Jonge, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kelvin Harrison jun.
Rating: (M)


When I heard that Baz Luhrmann was doing an Elvis bio-pic I felt a huge sense of excitement. It seemed as if the director least afraid of going all out had found his ultimate subject and I expected great things.

Elvis (Rialto, Metro and Reading) does indeed provide great things, but it is also an exercise in stamina for both cast and audience. After I had seen it I had to have a little rest to try to work out how I enjoyed it immensely, yet still felt disappointed in it.

Ultimately, I think I was expecting too much. To explain the ticks that made Elvis, Elvis is more than any one film, no matter how long, can manage. In the end, it did something maybe harder. To take someone who looked effortless and simple and show just how complicated they really were.

Luhrmann was lucky to find Austin Butler to play Elvis because the decision to have Elvis' story narrated by Elvis' discredited manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) keeps Elvis at one remove, but Butler's charisma keeps bursting through to keep us focused on the person we want to see.

Hanks does a good job with the creepy colonel, but no-one goes to a movie about Elvis to ponder about the character of his exploitative manager.

Elvis was filmed in Australia during the first stages of the pandemic and Luhrmann was forced to recast Elvis' parents with Australian actors Helen Thomson and Richard Roxburgh and it worked in his favour because they are both rather wonderful in supporting, but telling, roles.

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