dir: Baz Luhrmann
I would say I’m in two minds about this flick, but that wouldn’t strictly be true. This is a Barry Luhrmann film after all.
His films, at their best, are hysterical, over-edited monstrosities where performances take a distant back seat to hyper-editing and high energy sequences that try to obscure the vast emptiness underneath. All the great costuming and set design, all the impassioned, arch performances are thrown into a blender and shattered into a perplexing array of disparate shards, and then poured out through a firehose onto an unsuspecting and unwilling audience.
That’s overstating things, surely. He has birthed one utter monstrosity into this world, being the film that summarised Australia called, um, Australia, which is so terrible that around its release it resulted in a massive shortage in negative adjective descriptors, because they were all used up in describing the sheer multitude of ways in which it achieved peak terribleness.
And I guess Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge have their fans. Great Gatsby doesn’t have any fans and sleeps very much alone, but is almost worth it entirely for that great shot of DiCaprio raising that champagne glass to the peak crescendo moment scored with George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
It’s an insane, overdone, peak cheesy moment done to perfection. Luhrmann has always been better suited to film clips and laundry detergent commercials than he ever could be at long form movies.
What is a movie, anyway? Is it a collection of moments strung together thematically to both highlight individual moments but also deliver an overarching flow that’s meant to congeal in our brains as everything connects together, leaving us with some lasting impressions and feelings about people and places?
This Elvis film, for the most part, is incapable of doing that. It does not want to tell a coherent story about Elvis’s life or about what made Elvis a phenomenon. Only a fool watches a Luhrmann film wanting a coherent anything about anything.
There is a unifying, over-arching connector throughout all of this (it’s over two and a half hours long), but unfortunately that’s part of what makes it such a fucking disjointed slog to get through – the terrible narration of Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks, ugh), telling us Elvis’s story through the lens of when Colonel Parker started exploiting the poor boy in the 1950s, through to the poor boy’s death in the 70s at the age of 42.